Easter cookies (and other adorable sweet treats!)

From chocolate and marshmallow peeps to those delicious little jelly beans, Easter is a candy-filled treat for anyone with a sweet tooth!

In honor of the Easter holiday that’s quickly approaching, we pulled together some amazing Easter cookies and sweet treats that take Easter candy to a whole new level! Enjoy!

1. Easy Easter Cookies by Spaceships and Laser Beams

Easy Easter Cookies by Spaceships and Laser Beams

Image credit: Spaceships and Laser Beams

We loved this fun twist on Rice Krispie treats! Stephanie cuts out the bars with an egg-shaped cookie cutter, dips them in melting chocolate and then into sprinkles! How fun! (Heads up: She also has some super adorable Easter printables on her blog, too!)

2. Nutter Butter Chicks by Passion for Savings

Nutter Butter Chicks by Passion for Savings

Image credit: Passion for Savings

We were pretty sure that Nutter Butters couldn’t get more delicious, but when dipped in melting chocolate? Yes, please!

3. Adorable (and easy) Blue Birdies by Sweet Sugarbelle

 

Adorable (and easy) Blue Birdies by Sweet Sugarbelle

Image credit: Sweet Sugarbelle

We were thrilled to see Jordan almonds on display (and not just at a wedding!) A little royal icing takes these confections to a new (adorable!) level!

4. Bird’s Nests by The Curvy Carrot

Bird's Next Cookies by The Curvy Carrot

Image credit: The Curvy Carrot

Shanon makes these Bird’s Nests with chow mein noodles, but can you imagine them with pretzels? We’re positively swooning at the idea of the perfect sweet-and-salty combination!

5. Peeps Easter Bunny Dirt Cake by Food Family Finds

Easter Bunny Dirt Cake by Food Family Finds

Image credit: Food Family Finds

We think that the green fingertips you’ll end up with after using food coloring to dye the coconut “grass” will be totally worth the ooh’s and aah’s you will get on Easter Sunday! If this is half as delicious as it is adorable, it’ll be a show-stopper!

Do you have a favorite Easter treat or tradition? We’d love to hear about it!

 

 

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Valentine’s Day sweet treats

Valentine's Day Sweet Treats

It has been said that the fastest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. While we might argue that it’s a wee bit more complicated than that, it’s surely a thoughtful (and tasty!) way to express love and adoration.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we pulled together some fun ideas for creating the perfect Valentine’s Day sweet treat!

1. Valentine’s Day Oreo Pops by Makoodle

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2. Homemade Strawberry Valentine Snacks by Modern Parents Messy Kids

Simple strawberries and grapes modern parents messy kids

3. Easy Valentine’s Day Cookies by Family Fresh Meals

Easy-Valentines-Day-Cookies-FamilyFreshMeals

4. Easy Cupid’s Arrow Pretzels by One Little Project

Heart arrows by one little project

5. Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Hearts by 1 Fine Cookie

chocolate hearts one fine cookie alternative image

6. Valentine’s Day Candy Cake from All You

Conversation hearts cake by all you

7. X’s and O’s Cupcakes from Martha Stewart

xo cupcakes by Martha Stewart

8. Homemade Valentine’s Day gumdrops by Mom on Timeout

Homemade-Gumdrops

Do you have a great Valentine’s Day sweet treat idea you’d like to share? Link it in the comments!

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Free Printable Thanksgiving Recipes… from our family to yours!

Free Printable Thanksgiving Recipes

With Thanksgiving fast approaching and the rest of the holiday season right around the corner, there will undoubtedly be many family get-togethers and friendly dinners you will be invited to, which means it’s time to start thinking of some new side dishes to share with the group! With this in mind, we decided to make some free printable Thanksgiving recipe cards featuring some of our American Greetings associates’ favorite family recipes.  We  tried to select a few that seemed equal parts delicious and easy to prepare!

1. Spicy Chicken Dip:

Spicy Chicken Dip Recipe

This comes to us from the kitchen of Christine Stefanick and is a surefire winner during pre-dinner appetizers or any of the many football games thoughout the day! Click here to download and print the full-size, double-sided recipe card.

2. Squash Casserole:

Squash_Casserole_Recipe_Card_Front

We’re sure you’ve had squash casserole before, but this one adds in two of our favorite things in an amazing way–bread stuffing and cheese! To view the full recipe card and print it for yourself, click here! This tasty recipe is courtesy of American Greetings associate Dana Hunt!

3. Better Than Waldorf Salad:

Waldorf_Salad_Recipe_Card_Front
From the kitchen of Sue Tischler, this upgraded Waldorf Salad recipe adds pineapple, cherries, and marshmallow cream to create a delightful side dish that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Download and print the full recipe card here!

What’s your favorite family recipe? We’d love to hear in the comments!

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Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe

When the first day of fall recently arrived at American Greetings, we did what we always do so well—we celebrated! This time it took the shape of a fun Fall Fest—food, cider, decorations, and all! Our Social Media Team wanted to share our fun with you by posting some “behind-the-scenes” photos on  Instagram that day:

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe from Maria Isabella

If you saw the post, you probably also noticed some lovely mini pumpkin cheesecakes on the right-hand side of the picture. So many of you commented on them that we asked our social media writing expert and resident baking maven, Maria Isabella, to share her mini pumpkin cheesecake recipe with you!

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe from Maria Isabella

 

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe

Recipe adapted from Pinch My Salt
Makes 12 servings

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 egg plus 1 egg white, slightly beaten
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves

Topping:
1 cup heavy cream
Powdered sugar, to taste
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 12-cavity mini cheesecake pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix all crust ingredients until well combined. Divide evenly between the 12 cups. Press crumbs firmly on bottom and a third of the way up sides of each cup. Set aside.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, blend all filling ingredients together until smooth. Spoon evenly into each crust-lined cup.
  4. Bake for 14 minutes. Remove from oven and place on rack to cool for 20 minutes. Carefully remove cheesecakes from pan. Let cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Just before serving, combine all topping ingredients in a chilled bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Place a dollop on each cheesecake.

Enjoy and Happy Fall!

mariah sig-600dpi

 

 

In addition to writing for American Greetings, Maria is also a published, award-winning cookbook author. Her book, In The Kitchen With Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million and Kent State University Press. Follow her blog at www.mariasbitsandpieces.com.

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Easy, Adorable Valentine’s Day Crafts

It’s February—the month dedicated to all things red, pink, and covered in hearts! As we count down the days until Valentine’s Day, we’re also in the mood to do some crafting! In order to accomplish this goal, we thought we’d share some really great Valentine’s Day craft ideas that we found that are perfect for showing some love to someone special in your life.

 

Wheres_The_Love_BLG_AG1. DIY Chalkboard Valentine Candy Box from Skip to my Lou

2. Heart Shaped Bird Feeder from No Time For Flash Cards

3. Heart Handprint Valentine Craft from The Shirleys

4. Yarn Hearts from Family Chic

5. Marbled Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies from The Novice Chef

6. Mini Heart Garland from Honey We’re Home

7. Valentine Craft: Tic Tac Toe Hearts from Alpha Mom

If you have any other heart-themed ideas or creative  for Valentine’s Day crafts, feel free to leave a note in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

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Summer Series – Recipes

Summer Recipes from StayInspired365.com

It’s summertime and the cooking is easy!  With so many delicious foods in season, the only hard thing about serving up the perfect meal is narrowing down the choices.

Simple Summer Meals

Nobody wants to spend a warm day over a hot stove, which is why summer salads are excellent options for lunch and dinner—especially if you add chicken, steak or seafood.   If you’re packing a picnic, it’s fun to combine classic favorites with interesting updates such as a BLT dip and pinwheel sandwiches, along with low-maintenance desserts that stay fresh all day long.

Great Grilling Recipes

Although burgers and hotdogs tend to be the most common grill foods, it might be time for a new spin on some old favorites, like barbeque hot dogs and stuffed burgers.  Or, serve all the flavors of the season on one skewer with easy kabobs.  If you prefer steak or seafood but worry that your grilling skills might not make the cut, a mouth-watering marinade is your key to success.  And don’t forget to grill your side dishes, too! Grilled vegetables complement any summer meal perfectly…and keep all the cooking out of kitchen.

The Coolest Cocktails

While water is certainly the best way to stay hydrated in the sunshine, it’s so much more fun to cool off with a creative summer drink.  For many people, iced tea is the official taste of summertime, but there are also plenty of occasions to keep the cocktails  flowing.  Non-alcoholic treats such as Watermelon Lemonade or an Orange Creamsicle Smoothie are refreshing options for kids—and a fun way to keep everyone in the summertime spirit!

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Top 10 Picnic Tips

Top 10 Picnic Tips from stayinspired365.com

It’s time to stock up the cooler, spread out the blanket and bask in the sunshine…because tomorrow is International Picnic Day!  And with the official start of summer occurring on June 21, a whole season of picnicking is about to begin.  So here are our top  ten picnic tips to get you perfectly prepared:

1.    Keep it simple. Stick to a menu of summertime favorites that you can serve all at the same time.  Guests can leisurely help themselves while you kick back and relax.

2.     Make things interesting. Even classics like fried chicken, watermelon and potato salad can be updated with a new recipe.  Or visit your local deli or gourmet market for a picnic made by pros.

3.     Cool it. Freeze bottles of water or juice to use as ice packs until they’re ready to drink.  Ice the cooler several hours beforehand to keep it colder longer, but be sure to keep some ice separate to put in drinks.

4.     Pack wisely. Use lidded plastic containers to keep things fresh and prevent spills.  Pack dressings separately to avoid soggy salads.  For condiments, many brands now offer convenient “picnic packs.”  But you still can’t beat individual fast food packets, so save your extras!

5.     Keep it light. Once you consolidate your supplies, make sure they’re simple to carry and not too heavy.  Some picnic spots are quite a hike. 

6.     Set the table or blanket. Bring extra plates or platters for serving, large spoons for salads, at least one sharp knife, and an opener for wine or bottles.  To keep things organized, put food and drinks in separate coolers.

7.     Be prepared. Sunscreen, bug spray, a waterproof picnic blanket, umbrellas and a first aid kit should protect you from most of the elements.

8.     Avoid these. Foods that don’t transport well (ice cream, puddings, frosted cakes) should stay off the menu.  And keep in mind that sweet and sticky tends to attract wasps and bees.

9.     Clean up. You can never have enough hand wipes—especially if you opt for barbeque.  And be sure to bring extra bags for leftover food and trash.

10.    Stay flexible. Even the best laid plans—and picnics—are weather dependent, but no one ever said you can’t picnic indoors.  If the skies turn stormy, move the meal inside, lay the blanket on the floor and stay in the summertime spirit!

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Spring Recipes to Awaken Your Taste Buds…

With the first day of Spring just around the corner, it’s time to stop simmering comfort food in crock pots and start serving up those healthy, delicious in-season fruits and vegetables from the produce aisle.  Or, better yet, browse your local Farmer’s Market!

Here’s a rainbow of spring recipes that truly capture the essence of spring.  And best of all, with a variety of dishes from breakfast through dinner, your Easter menu is nearly complete–just be sure to include your favorite dessert!

American-Greetings_blueberry-cream-cheese

Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole

This is a soon-to-be family favorite that can be prepared the night before your Easter brunch or simply for Sunday morning…with leftovers you’ll love on Monday.

Tomato Basil SkewersAmerican-Greetings_tomato-basil-skewers

For a quick, colorful appetizer or just a healthy snack, you can’t beat this 10-minute treat that’s easy to make and fun to eat.

AmericanGreetins_strawberry-and-spinach-saladStrawberry and Spinach Salad

This five-star salad will instantly get you in the spirit of spring…and carry you right through summer because you’ll crave it again and again.

Roasted AsparagusAmericanGreetings_roasted-asparagus

No spring dinner is complete without the season’s star vegetable and ultra-healthy superfood—with whole body benefits that range from anti-aging to pain relief!

American-Greetings_tangerine-glazed-hamTangerine-Glazed Easter Ham with Baby Carrots

In an effort to bring you the best Easter ham ever, this recipe has been hailed “beyond delicious” and the one that may finally convert your non-ham fan.

 

Bon Appetit…and bring on the sunshine!

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Superbowl Recipe – Go Cajun this Sunday!

02032013_cajun-pasta

Ok, are you ready for some football?  The superbowl is today and it will be played in New Orleans for the tenth time, which ties it with Miami for the most times a city has hosted this popular event.  Since New Orleans is famous for its spicy cuisine and most of us will be overindulging during the game, we thought it would be fun to feature a yummy recipe with some cajun flair. Ree Drummond has shared this recipe for Cajun Chicken Pasta on her blog site, The Pioneer Woman, and it has received great reviews.

The key to making this recipe worth tasting is all in the spices. Make sure you have plenty of cayenne pepper on hand and Ree suggests improvising with some bona fide bayou ingredients like crawfish, shrimp and andouille sausage.

This dish is sure to fulfill, so now let’s hope the game does too. Go teams!

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How To Brighten Someone’s Day…

01142013_cheer

The holidays are over, and winter is in full force, with cold weather and short days.

Many people experience “the blues” after all the festivities are over, and still others might be down because of stress, work, poor health and other factors. This is a wonderful time to reach out—and in the process, it will lift your spirits, too! Here are some how to ideas:

Plan a Get-Together: If you are nearby, it’s a nice idea to make plans to get together for coffee or dinner. Offer to do the driving, but if they don’t want to go out, you can at least visit. Arrive with flowers or a plant, and perhaps something yummy to eat, like fresh-baked cookies. If you’re far away, you can still send a lovely arrangement to boost their spirits. Bright colors and springtime fragrances are always mood enhancers. Or, simply pick up the phone and call. Nothing warms the heart like hearing the voice of someone who cares.

Make it Personal: A card is always welcome, and be sure to give thought to what the receiver would like, whether it’s a funny, sweet or heartfelt card. Pictures or even a photo card that shows people they love or favorite pets can also bring an extra measure of cheer. A handwritten note or personalized message is important, too. Be supportive, but also include a positive message: bring up happy memories shared, or fun times that are coming up.

Get Smart: In this world of iPads, iPhones and in general, smart technology, you can lift someone’s spirits with a simple touch of a key. Send them links to apps or websites they might like, such as a joke for the day to make them laugh, a daily message of inspiration, or even a game site to add some fun.

So make a difference in someone’s life and remember: “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” ~ Sir James Barrie

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Thanksgiving Preparation Tips…

happy thanksgiving

Holidays are filled with food and fun, but when you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, it can be overwhelming.  We’d like to share some ideas for Thanksgiving to make the occasion less stressful, and give you more time to enjoy the day.  And we also included some helpful hints for your guests:

Create a countdown calendar to stay organized.   Make a list of what you need to do each day. Include things such as shopping, cleaning and decorating—as well as taking a little time for yourself.

Work on your grocery list early.  There’s no way to avoid crowds at the grocery store this week, but if you make a detailed list first that focuses on your recipes, shopping will be a snap!  Also consider purchasing a few gourmet-prepared foods to make cooking easier.

Plan out your cleaning time.  Family members can be a big help here, or if a close guest asks how they can help, why not suggest a pre-holiday “cleaning and coffee” get-together?

Simplify your decorating.   Make nature’s bounty the perfect accent by creating your own version of a cornucopia in a basket filled with luscious fruit, dried flowers and colorful leaves. Or spray leaves and pinecones with glitter shellac and arrange them around deep red and orange candles. Check out sites like pinterest for amazing inspiration, too.

Make a detailed schedule for food preparation.  Counting backwards for your Thanksgiving feast will let you know just how much time each item needs for preparation and cooking, and you’ll be able to devote the time in between to socializing with your guests.

Remember guest etiquette.   If you’re the guest this year, definitely find out what you can bring, but also remember not to crowd in the kitchen, and always help with cleanup.  Be sure to send a thoughtful thank you note afterwards, too.

Give thanks!  Finally, no matter what your beliefs, it’s nice to say a few words of gratitude before the meal.  After all, this day is about being thankful for life’s gifts.

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Back to School

Back to School!

Backpacks, binders and buses—oh yeah, it’s back to school time! Whether your child starts tomorrow or still has a couple more weeks, here are some important reminders to make life a little easier.

  • Get super organized by using stylish, colorful folders to send all that required paperwork to the school office.
  • Lunches: to pack or buy? If packing, check out these great sandwich ideas; if not, don’t forget the lunch money.
  • Avoid a first day fashion crisis!  Whether uniforms or regular clothes, review the dress code and get the first week’s wardrobe lined up and hung in the closet.
  • When it comes to school supplies, most schools hand out lists, so shop around for prices and deals.
  • Label, label, label! You can use a permanent marker or order fun, personalized labels to last throughout the school year.
  • Gym clothes, sports uniforms, change of clothes—make sure it’s all labeled and packed. Tuck in an extra plastic bag for the dirty clothes and shoes.
  • Summer reading is standard at most schools, so check that the assignment is completed and set to go!
  • Backpack ready? Make sure you know the school requirements as well as the latest fashion trends for this essential item.
  • Get the kids to bed! Summer is great for staying up late, but now is the time to start getting to sleep—and waking up—earlier.
  • Finally, create a printable card at home and tuck it in your child’s lunch or backpack just to let them know you’re thinking of them on their first day.  It will make them smile!
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Keeping Busy in the Summer

It’s summertime, and the living is easy! Fortunately, there are also lots of easy ways to have summer fun.

Stuck at work all day and feel like you’re missing out? No problem! Since it stays light later, make it a point to enjoy summer activities in the evening. Go swimming, take a hike, or ride your bike. If you don’t have the time to take a long destination vacation, try a “staycation” this year.

It doesn’t have to be a challenge to keep kids occupied during summer vacation. Most libraries offer programs that are both interesting and keep kids reading during their break. Give your kids something fun and tasty to do at lunch when they make their own crazy and creative sandwiches, then have them spend the hot afternoon enjoying crafts. Don’t forget to check out your local recreation department for day camps and sports clinics, or arrange your own group activities—such as trips to the zoo or amusement parks—with other parents.

“Free” is a great word, and it’s easy to find no-cost things to do in your city when you simply search on that phrase and add your location. You’ll be amazed at what’s offered for both kids and adults. These warm, sunny days won’t last forever, though, so get out there and take advantage of all the great things summer has to offer. And don’t forget to take as many photos as possible to document your summer fun – you can use them in scrapbooks or personalized cards!

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Celebrating Summer!

Refreshing iced tea on a hot summer's day... delicious!

Long sunny days, warm starry nights…Who doesn’t love summer? Summertime = fun time—and one of the best ways to have fun is with a party – so get those summer party invitations ready!

There are so many choices when it comes to summer parties and they’re such a breeze to plan. All you need is the right setting and the perfect summer recipes.  A beach or pool party is a great way to cool off on a hot day, especially when you serve tall glasses of gourmet iced teas. Thinking of having a relaxing get-together? A woodsy site is another wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. Bring along a portable grill, throw on some perfectly seasoned burgers, and you’re off to a great time!

If you’d like to keep the festivities at home, why not throw a tropical soiree and light up the night with strings of colored lights and tiki torches. For athletic sorts, a backyard sports extravaganza is a winner when you set up games like horseshoes, badminton, and croquet. And whether you’re cooling off those competitive spirits, or just looking for a refreshing treat for any summertime party, serve quick and easy desserts like frozen fruit slush. If you’re concerned about decorations, the best idea is to take a hint from Mother Nature and use bright, floral colors and lush, vibrant greens. Those summer-inspired hues will work great no matter what type of get-together you’re having.

Even though the air is causal, be sure to remember your manners! Thank you notes are always in season, so if you’re a guest, send a personalized thank you card saying “thanks for inviting me!” Your host will be thrilled—and you’ll be guaranteed a future invite. Likewise, if you are the one throwing the party and receive any gifts or treats, be sure to send out your thank-yous, too. It’s the perfect way to wrap up every wonderful, fun-filled celebration of summer!

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Spring Salads We Love!

So Easter has come and gone, and maybe you’re getting a little tired of all the sweets (hard to believe, I know, but everyone has their limit). We thought we’d share some Spring salads today from some of our favorite bloggers! These dishes all utilize fresh ingredients that remind us of this wonderful season. Enjoy, and let us know how everything turns out!

Seared Asparagus Salad – from Forgiving Martha

Beets, Avocado & Citrus Salad – from Camille Styles

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