Monday, March 31, 2014

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

We enjoyed a nice weekend, the weather was beautiful and we got lots accomplished. I had a busy ending to the week, a total of six cakes in the matter of a couple days so I tried to catch up on some sleep over the weekend. In a way it's almost like having a newborn, staying up until the middle of the night and still waking at six. But it sure is a lot of fun!

Let's take a peek at some of my favorites across the web right now!

 Chicago Cubs Preschool Girl's Batting Practice Jersey - Shop

It's opening day for baseball! And it officially is starting to feel more like spring. I love this cute little jersey for girls, in fact I could totally see the hubby buying one for our youngest.

Child counting money (Shallow DOF)

I came across this post over the weekend and loved it! The author makes so many good points and I agree with a lot of what she has to say.

Love seven-layer dip? These tostadas look great, I think I need to add these my menu some week!


Tulips are my absolute favorite, so I love this easy centerpiece idea for Easter.

Are you anxiously waiting for farmers' market season to start too?! Saving this idea for when we've all got zucchini coming out of our ears this summer!

I hope you're having a fantastic Monday! I've got a really fun DIY candy recipe coming up on Wednesday, stay tuned!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Taco Pizza

We love pizza in our house, sometimes we'll make it once a week and other times it might only be once a month. We used to order out a lot more than we do now, but now that I've got a really good recipe for the dough it's no big deal to make up a batch and get three pizzas out of it. Plenty for our family plus leftovers for lunch the next day and we can add whatever toppings we'd like.

Taco is one of my hubby's favorites and when I have extra seasoned meat in the fridge I like to make up a taco pizza for him.

It's especially good in the summer when I've got fresh tomatoes out of the garden to use. We keep ours pretty simple as he doesn't like refried beans. But really there's no wrong way to make this. It's much cheaper than take-out and tastes really good too!

Taco Pizza

Pizza dough, enough for at least one crust
2 cups seasoned taco meat {cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes}
1 cup taco sauce or salsa
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
chopped lettuce
diced tomato
grated cheddar cheese
taco chips, crunched up

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a pizza stone or pan, roll out dough. Spread taco sauce or salsa over crust. Top with taco meat and mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crust is baked through and turning brown.

Remove from oven and immediately top with lettuce, tomatoes, taco chips and cheddar cheese. Cut into slices, serve with additional sauce or toppings if desired.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Freezer Swap

Saturday four other ladies and myself got together for the day to prepare tons of food for our freezers. I've been organizing and hosting freezer swaps for a few years now, of course we'd love to do them more often but it seems about 1-2 times a year at most is what ends up working for us. It's so hard to get one day to work for everyone. I've got about ten or so ladies that are always interested, but each time we end up with around four to six of us. Which seems to be a perfect number, not too many for the space and time allowed.

This time around we tried a new location, the break room where both my hubby and dad work. I actually hosted my cookie exchange here in December. There's tons of room, lots of tables for us to spread out and work. A large counter top, two ovens, a sink, three microwaves, two fridges, etc, etc. The only thing we were lacking were stove tops. Easy fix though! My mother-in-law had a portable burner we borrowed and a few electric skillets were brought along as well.

We all arrived and got started just after 10:00 in the morning.  My dad and the owner were wonderful at making sure we had everything we needed. We turned on some music and got started. Of course there was plenty of talking and catching up, but lots of mixing, chopping, sauteing and baking going on.

My oldest is now 14 and interested in learning to cook, so she came along to help. It was great having an extra set of hands in the kitchen. That's what I love about our group, most everyone finished up about the same time but we had some {like my mom who cooks for a living} that finished way before anyone else! They immediately hop right in and ask what they can help with next.

I think we did great on time for as much as we made. We had to spread our finished products out over three separate tables, there was no fitting everything on one! Everyone went home with right about 20 dishes, mostly dinners but some sides in there as well. Not bad at all for 5 1/2 hours of work, and that includes our clean up.

I won't lie, I personally, was tired and simply exhausted by the end of the day. I'm sure part of that was from staying up late the night before working on a pretty big cake. But it's all worth it. My freezer is full now, these will come in handy as we're gearing up for all the busy spring activities.

Here's a list of what everyone took home on Saturday:

Baked Parmesan potato wedges
Marinated chicken breasts
Monkey bread
Taco soup
Twice baked potatoes
Inside out burgers {stuffed with bacon and cheese}
Party potatoes
Pumpkin bread
Firecracker sloppy joes
Ham balls
Zesty Italian melts {recipe coming soon!}
Banana nut coffee cake
Chicken enchiladas

Everyone went home with a wonderful selection, a few things we even have doubles of. I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Queso Fundido

Occasionally instead of a traditional meal we like to have a few different appetizers for our dinner. It gives this mama a chance to try out some new recipes and the kids don't mind having finger foods and the like. That's what we did a couple Sundays ago. We made up a good size skillet of this cheesy dip and dug right in.

I've come across recipes for queso fundido but had never made it before. I first spotted it in my Not Your Mother's Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook. Interesting, I know, especially as a freezer meal. I keep reminding myself to give that a try.

Then as I was doing a little menu planning one day, I stumbled on The Pioneer Woman's version. Sounded easy enough and who doesn't like a good plate of cheesy goodness?

Everyone loved it, we pretty much devoured the whole pan, only leaving a tiny bit. I can only imagine how much better this appetizer would taste during the summer, when tomatoes and peppers are at their peak flavor here in the Midwest.

Queso Fundido

1/2 lb. mild pork sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
16 oz. block Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 small tomatoes, diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a 10-inch skillet {oven-safe}, cook diced peppers over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, just until softened. Remove from stove and transfer to a plate.

In the same skillet, add 1/3 of the grated cheese to the bottom. Then sprinkle half of the cooked sausage over top of cheese. Top with another 1/3 of the cheese, then about 3/4 of your peppers {save the rest for omelets or a frittata the next day}. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and sausage. Lightly sprinkle the top of the mixture with both the cumin and chili powder.

Place skillet in the oven and let cook for a good 5 minutes. Cheese should be completely melted.

Remove from oven and immediately top with diced tomatoes and avocado. Serve with tortilla chips. Feel free to return back to oven for a couple minutes if cheese needs to be melted again.

Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman


Speaking of freezer cooking, it's been almost a year since I've hosted a freezer swap with some friends. This Saturday, five other gals and I will be getting together to cook the day away! We're each preparing 2 main dish recipes and 1 side item. All in all, we plan to go home with 18 different dishes to stow away in our freezers. Fun times, be sure to watch for an update!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Frosted Cookie Brownies

Last Friday I spent the better part of my day preparing a home-cooked meal for a friend's family. They'd been dealing with a lot in the past week and frankly I just thought relieving the stress from planning one meal might be helpful.

I got busy in the kitchen and made a big pan of lasagna, Parmesan-garlic breadsticks, salad and these brownies. I love doing things like this for others! If I had an endless supply of money and time, I could see spending my days making up meals for others and surprising them. It's a passion I share and I hope they can feel the love that goes into each and every single dish.

It's been years since I've made these bars. In fact the last time I remember making them, I was newly married and our middle child was only a few months old. I made them for a fundraiser, a friend's daughter was needing to undergo multiple surgeries and they were having a huge benefit and bake sale.

Taste of Home was where I first spotted these, as were many of the recipes I first learned to prepare. I've since made a few changes, mainly replacing the store bought cookie dough with my own homemade version. It doesn't take much time to mix up.  The bars are very rich and decadent, just like a good brownie should be.

I split the recipe into two small 8x8 inch pans, but typically you can prepare these in a large 9x13 pan. If you feel like surprising a neighbor or friend, I highly recommend making the two pans. There's certainly plenty for everyone! Or stash the other pan in the freezer for another day, or when you need dessert but short on time.

Frosted Cookie Brownies

1 batch of chocolate chip cookie dough
3 cups mini marshmallows
12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 sticks butter
4 eggs
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

2 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
3-4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease either two 8x8 inch baking pans or one 9x13 pan. Press cookie dough into prepared pan(s) and bake for 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, place marshmallows, chocolate chips, and butter and cook over low heat. Stirring often, let cook until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl to let cool. Once cooled, beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add in flour, baking powder and salt and mix together well.

Pour brownie mixture over cookie crust and bake in oven for another 35 minutes. If using two smaller pans, you'll probably need to increase time to 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

To make frosting: combine marshmallows, milk, butter and chocolate in a small saucepan. Let cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until melted together and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar, until frosting is smooth and reaches your desired consistency. Frost brownies with the icing and cut into bars.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Veggie & Sausage Frittata

Every so often we like to have breakfast for dinner, it's a fun change of pace and generally something I can get on the table fast. That was the plan for Monday night before we were off to dance lessons for the evening, but of course I was almost out of eggs. This frittata had to be pushed back.

It worked out alright though, we ended up making it for lunch yesterday. I had some extra sausage, kale and bell peppers that needed used up; that's what I love about frittatas. They never have to be the same, you can throw in whatever's in your fridge.

For those nights when you get home and have no plan for dinner, make this. It takes less than 20 minutes and there's really no right or wrong way to prepare it. And I can't think of a better way to sneak in some extra veggies into our kids' bellies!

Veggie & Sausage Frittata

10 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated cheese {I used cheddar}
1 tbsp butter
1 cup diced bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped kale
1 cup cooked, crumbled sausage

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs together. Season with salt and pepper, add in cheese and set aside.

In a 10-inch oven safe skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add in veggies and let cook for a couple minutes until softened. Add in cooked sausage and toss together. Pour eggs into skillet and let cook on the stove for 1 minute.

Then transfer to oven and let bake for 12 minutes or until eggs are cooked through and top is lightly browned. Remove from oven, slide onto a large plate and cut into wedges. Serve warm.

Monday, March 10, 2014

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now

I received a lot of nice compliments last time I ran a post like this, so I thought we'd try it again. Maybe a couple times each month. It's fun to take a little break and share some things I've come across lately.

join the decluttering revolution! Challenge yourself to simplify and get rid of 40 bags in 40 days. #40bagsin40days

I've been on this decluttering and organizing kick for the past few months. I'm ready to rid my house of everything except for those that we absolutely love and need. It's going to be hard work. We have three girls and I have run an in-home daycare for the last eight years. But it's something that needs to be done. I came across this post a couple weeks ago. It's been making rounds across Facebook too. Has anyone taken on the challenge? I'm slowly getting started, trying to work on a little bit each day as time allows.

I recently won a giveaway and received a $25 Visa gift card. Well along with a coupon in my email last week, I ordered this new cookbook. {I told you they are my weakness!} I'm excited for it to arrive later this week and starting reading through it.

If you have kids, you might have already seen this movie. We're anxiously awaiting for it to come out on DVD. I took the girls to see it before Christmas and we instantly fell in love. In fact they are constantly singing songs from it all the time. Right now you can actually pre-order the Blu-Ray/DVD combo for only $19.99.

A couple years ago I spotted this Easter themed wreath. I had planned to make it, especially because it looks so easy; but unfortunately I ended up sick and had my gallbladder removed that week. I completely forgot about it until I ran across it again. I might have to give it a try this year!

strawberry moscato wine cocktails

The temps are finally starting to warm, I had my doubts but I really think spring is right around the corner. I'm ready for warm days, sitting in the backyard and soaking up the sun and maybe a drink like this in my hand!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Biscoff Granola Bars

It's been awhile since I've made a good granola bar. We go in spurts with our snacks or treats and they just haven't been in the rotation lately. They're also something I'd rather make myself and not buy store bought, as with pretty much any sort of treat.

Our six year old had Girl Scouts this week and it was our turn to bring snack. I was trying to think of something a little more healthy to bring but she insisted on my making some granola bars to share. It gave me the chance to tinker around and create a new version. One that they all loved and certainly didn't last long!

During our spending strike in February, I think one of the ingredients I missed most was the biscoff cookie spread. It's fun to incorporate into desserts and I like it on my bagel once in awhile. Because it is almost $4 for a jar, I try to make the jar last as long as possible. It's really a splurge and not something that we need to buy often.

But it was certainly a fun and delicious addition to these granola bars! Combined with just a little bit of chocolate, they are quite good. Peanut butter or really any nut butter can be substituted, in fact the girls are already requesting a peanut butter and chocolate batch. Soon girls, soon.

Biscoff Granola Bars

2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups rice krispie cereal
pinch of salt
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup biscoff spread

In a medium saucepan, combine honey, syrup and biscoff spread. Let melt over low heat until well combined. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine oats, cereal and salt. Once biscoff mixture is melted, pour over dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

Immediately pour mixture into a 8x8-inch baking pan and press down using hands. Let cool for at least an hour or until easy to handle. Cut into 12 bars. Store extras in an airtight container at room temp or in freezer.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Sometimes we need something quick, easy and just plain fun for dinner. That's exactly what I think of when I see a dish like pictured above. Tacos are always a big hit in our house and it's fun to change things up every once in awhile, am I right?

I'm not going to lie and pretend these are healthy. Corn chips don't really fall into that category. You can certainly leave them out or substitute brown rice if you'd prefer. But I will say the kiddos loved them and I think it's okay to enjoy those foods in moderation.

Hopefully the weather will start warming up soon. As the temps increase, lighter meals tend to be in our plan. I can see us serving these or a version like it occasionally in the summer and even in potluck type gatherings. I like how I can set out bowls of toppings and let everyone make their own. Easy peasy!


2 lbs. seasoned taco meat
grated cheddar cheese
1 head of lettuce, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 bag corn chips
sour cream
avocado, optional

In bowls or on plates, layer ingredients as follows: corn chips, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and avocado. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and salsa.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snickerdoodle Cookies

So things are getting a little more back to normal around here. Friday we wrapped up our month long spending strike, you can read about our final week here. I was happy to go grocery shopping but also a little overwhelmed at the same time. I didn't feel like meal planning and I certainly didn't want to purchase a ton of food. But it turned out okay, I planned out two weeks worth of meals, which actually didn't take me very long at all. Then I made my list of ingredients needed plus some other things we were either out of or very low on. That was it though, I didn't go overboard stocking up on anything and everything. My cupboards are pretty full but not bulging. I think I really do have a different outlook now. I like to have a nice stockpile but I don't want to be wasting. I want to make sure we are using up what we purchase, because if I have to throw away food that's expired before we used it all up; then how it that saving me money in the long run?

The remainder of our weekend was actually pretty fun.  The older two girls got to have a date night with their grandparents at the rodeo. While the hubby and I took our youngest on a little outing to the toy store. She'll be turning four years old tomorrow so we thought we'd take her to pick out a couple new toys for her birthday.

On Sunday we planned to eat dinner with my family, I figured I would make her cake to take along, that way we'd have some help eating it. My mom always likes to make a special dinner for our birthdays, usually letting the birthday guest choose what they'd like to eat. Grandma made a nice ham dinner complete with mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, beans, homemade rolls and these cookies. My girls always request grandma's molasses and snickerdoodle cookies.

Besides chocolate chip, they are my mom's main staples when it comes to cookie baking. And that's okay with us because they are always so good! Soft and chewy with a cinnamon-sugar coating, I'm sure you can see why they love these old-fashioned cookies so much.

Snickerdoodle Cookies

1 cup shortening {can substitute butter}
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2-3/4 cup flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
additional sugar and cinnamon for rolling in

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream together shortening {or butter} and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time. Sprinkle in cream of tartar and baking soda and mix well. Gradually mix in the flour and beat until well incorporated.

In a small bowl combine a little bit of sugar and cinnamon for rolling cookie dough in and set aside.

Using a cookie scoop, roll dough balls into cinnamon-sugar mixture and then place onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes for soft cookies, 10 minutes for crispy. Makes 3 dozen.

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