4th of July Treat: Sweet & Salty Sparklers

Looking for a Fourth of July treat that is festive and everyone will enjoy? Family Fun magazine shared these sweet and salty “sparklers” with me and I just had to share them with you all! Layered with white chocolate and studded with sprinkles and M&M’s, these pretzel treats add flare to any party spread.

Directions: Cover a baking sheet with waxed paper. Melt 1 cup of white chocolate chips in a medium, heat-safe bowl according to the package directions. Use a spoon to drizzle 1pretzel rod at a time with chocolate (you’ll have enough chocolate to make a dozen), then lay the rod on the prepared sheet and scatter it with red and blue sprinkles and M&M’s. Chill the pretzels in the refrigerator until the chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.

Bread & Butter: My Italian Dinner Staple

Today I’m partnering with La Brea Bakery, as part of their Breaking Bread with La Brea Bakery tour stop in Chicago, to show how easy it is to make flavored butter and create a bread banquet for a large Italian meal. I’m not Italian but I love eating pasta (like my mom’s homemade cheese lasagna recipe). To start I headed to Jewel to buy bread from the bakery department. There was a whole La Brea bread display so I picked up four different varieties: Italian loaf, French loaf, three cheese, and a garlic loaf.

I bought five different cheeses and then decided to do something I’d never done before….make my own flavored butter! I bought some crushed garlic, green onions and fresh herbs. I had planned to make a savory butter to go with my garlic and cheese breads but once I got home from the store I decided to make a sweet butter instead. Since my favorite thing to add to toast is cinnamon and sugar I thought this would be a nice addition to the spread.

The flavored butter was extremely easy to make. I let a half stick of butter soften at room temperature before I cut it into large chunks in a small bowl. I then added a packet of seasoning I had in my spice cabinet that consisted of sugar, cinnamon and vanilla beans. The last step was to whip the butter and spices together and refrigerate once they were all mixed together. You can do really any combination of flavors that you think sound good. The next one I’m going to make will be garlic and parmesan cheese flavored.

Once your homemade butter is made you can transfer it to a prettier dish or container. I chose to use little plastic sauce containers that I put into red polka dot cupcake wrappers to go with my red, white and blue themed table. This worked well for the spreadable herb cheese that I bought as well. No ugly store bought plastic containers allowed on the table ;)

The next step was to set out all the sliced loafs of bread and cheeses. I used little cheese stakes in the cheeses and cute decorative toothpicks in the bread so everyone would know what flavors they were eating.

Here was the finished bread banquet:

Learn more about La Brea Bakery on their website. If you live in Charlotte, North Carolina, try free samples of La Brea Bakery’s delicious bread June 12th-15th and June 18th-21st.

Easter Celebrations With HoneyBaked Ham

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

I love hosting celebrations. Creating a party around a theme, spending time with family, and enjoying good food makes me happy. Cooking though? Not so much. When it comes to food I tend to stick to easy to eat main course dishes. For past birthday parties I have had things like hot dogs, chicken and burgers.

Some occasions call for more than BBQ-type foods. Easter is coming up and I don’t think a big family meal of burgers is going to cut it so we decided to get our food from the local HoneyBaked Ham store. Sinisa bought a ham dinner complete with side dishes. This is the perfect way to make sure I get my big fancy meal but still don’t have to do much cooking.

Everything is ready to heat and serve and then all I have to do is transfer it to some pretty dishes and enjoy the yummy food with my family. It’s easy to prepare and easy to clean up- my type of meal!

We chose to get both ham and turkey. Though ham is more popular for Easter, I like giving people a choice. Lucas, my four year old, who has not ever liked ham when he has had it in the past, devoured this ham. He loved the sweet outside skin on it and I think the fact that it was nice and juicy helped a lot.

We chose to get three different side dishes: cinnamon apples, sweet potato souffle, and potatoes au gratin. They can be microwaved or heated in the oven. We chose to make them in the microwave but for the sweet potatoes I would suggest making them in the oven so the top gets crunchy.

The sweet potato souffle was a big hit with both the boys (that extra brown sugar I sprinkled on top may have swayed them). It didn’t cook properly in the microwave but we stirred it instead of having it like a casserole and I think that made it perfect. Personally, I enjoyed the cinnamon apples the most and the sauce from the apples made a delicious dip for the ham and turkey.

Want someone else to make your Easter meal this year? HoneyBaked Ham has some great deals going on right now. They are currently offering:

In-Store Specials:

  • $54.99 Easter Ham & Turkey Combo – Pair a Turkey Breast (approx. 3 lbs.) with your choice of a Boneless Ham (approx. 3.5 lbs.) or Quarter Ham (approx. 4.5 lbs.)
  • $22.99 Turkey Breast (with any Half or Whole Ham purchase)
  • $24.99 Easter Brunch Bundle – Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake and Honey-Spice Bacon
  • Heat & Share Sides: Two for $13.99, three for $19.99

With Coupon:

  • $5 OFF Half Ham (Bone-in) or Become a HoneyBaked VIP at honeybakedfoods.com (Save an extra $1 when you sign up to become a HoneyBaked VIP at honeybakedfoods.com: $6 OFF )
  • $3 OFF Boneless Ham or Quarter Ham

 

New Sweet & Salty Snack {Costco Gift Card Giveaway}

Ever have those times when you are craving something to snack on but can’t decide between something sweet and something salty? If so, I have the perfect snack for you! Fisher Nuts recently sent me their new product to try out and share my thoughts with you all. They just launched a new snack product – Fisher Nut Exactly – exclusively at Costco stores in the Midwest for a limited time only. This sweet yet savory snack contains no artificial ingredients and is created with the perfect combination of crunchy roasted almonds and whole grain popcorn, rolled into a snack-sized bite that’s dipped in rich 66% cacao dark chocolate.

They have been a great snack for me to eat while driving the boys to Spring sports practices because they come in small poppable pieces. The combination of the nut and whole grain are filling enough to tide me over until we get home for dinner. The chocolate on them is just the right amount to give me that sweetness I’m craving.

These are also a nice snack to serve at your March Madness party tomorrow or really any get-together you are having this Spring. The key to any party is easy to eat food and this snack fits perfectly in that category!

Want to try it? Costco stores in the Midwest are having tastings this Thursday, April 10th. Live elsewhere? The giveaway below is open to everyone in the USA!

GIVEAWAY:

One person will win a $50 Costco gift card and package of Fisher Nut Exactly

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on the social network of your choice

3) Comment on another blog post

Giveaway ends April 17, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident, 21 or over to enter.

Lunch Combos At Applebee’s {Gift Card Giveaway}

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Applebee’s. Thoughts are my own.)

What did you have for lunch today? A sandwich? Leftovers? A TV dinner? Did you even eat at all?

I normally skip my mid-day meal or I graze on whatever I can find in my fridge or pantry while I’m working. I try to take lunch breaks every day but since I work from home I often get sidetracked by the laundry, the phone, or my overflowing email inbox. Over the next month I plan to treat myself to a real lunch at least once a week.

Since I don’t have time to cook I’m headed to Applebee’s to enjoy one of their 200 lunch combos. I was checking out their website and the food looks so good. I’m hungry just looking at all the options! Follow me on Instagram this month to check out which combos I pick and stay tuned to the blog for my review of their lunch menu. Make sure to enter the giveaway below so you can enjoy the lunch combos at Applebee’s, too.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a $50 Applebee’s gift card

HOW TO ENTER:

(Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do)

1) Tell me why you want to win

2) Tell me which combo you’d pick

3) Share this giveaway on social media

Giveaway ends April 27, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be 18 or older and a US resident to win.

Learning More About Gluten-Free Food Options

(Disclosure: I participated in this program on behalf of Udi’s and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.)

Most people go Gluten-Free because they have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance but I have considered going gluten-free (and casein-free) in the past because some people say it is a good diet for children who have Autism. The biggest thing holding me back was that I didn’t think Lucas, my four year old who has Autism, would do well with the limited diet. I just thought about all of the things he wouldn’t be able to eat at school and birthday parties. He is too young to understand the change but yet too old for us to pretend all these foods don’t exist.

Thankfully, I’ve learned about Udi’s Gluten-Free foods this month. I had heard of them before but had in my mind that foods labeled “gluten-free” tasted like cardboard. After tasting an assortment of their products, I can say that this is definitely not the case with Udi’s products. Lucas can still have the foods he loves, just a gluten-free version of them. I love this quote from Udi’s as well: “Udi’s changed the way consumers think about gluten free. We made can’ts, cans. We removed the restrictions that made living gluten free a struggle and made the transition seamless.”

Udi’s products I sampled included breads, bagels, muffins, chips, granola bars, tortillas, cookies, and granola. I want to focus on the sweets and snack items for this post because I think that those would be the items that would be the hardest to give up if we went gluten-free so it’s important that good tasting, gluten-free options exist. My absolute favorite item out of the bunch were the Snickerdoodle cookies. They were delicious!

The other two desserts I had were really good as well. The dark chocolate brownie bites tasted pretty close to a non-GF brownie. The Salted Caramel Cashew cookies had a great taste as well, though were a bit crunchier than I like my cookies.

Another snack item I tried were the chocolate chip granola bars. I tend to stick to one main granola bar brand so these didn’t taste exactly like the ones I normally eat but they are pretty comparable to other brands of granola bars that are on the market. If I went Gluten-Free these would definitely be in my purse and in the soccer bag.

I like to eat granola cereal for breakfast but I also eat it as a quick snack by itself or sprinkled on yogurt. Udi’s Blueberry Cashew Granola was very good. I loved that the clusters were huge which made it easy to snack on.

Curious about the other items that Udi’s has? Learn about all their gluten-free products on their website.

Winter Is Almost Over!

(Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Campbell Soup Company and I am being compensated as an Ambassador.)

Exciting news!! Winter is ALMOST OVER! It was 56 degrees here today! 56! See all of the exclamation points in the previous statements? That is how excited I am.

Along with winter, my time as a Campbell Wisest Kid Ambassador is also coming to an end. I have enjoyed introducing you to The Wisest Kid in the Whole World and sharing Campbell Soup Company recipes.

Some of my favorite recipes have come from the Campbell’s Kitchen. I especially loved the mini green bean casseroles since that’s a fun take on one of my favorite side dishes. My kids love the mini macaroni & cheese cups the most. Checking the website again today I see another recipe I am going to add to this week’s menu plan, the mini cheesy chicken enchiladas. So many ways to use soup that I didn’t even know existed!

Wondering which recipes were the most popular? Below are three top ranked recipes from the site. Which one was your favorite?

If you are still looking for indoor activities, consider cooking a delicious meal with your kids, a lunch full of dunkables with Campbell’s Condensed Tomato soup, or one of the fun ideas featured in this video below.

A Special Family Dinner At Houlihan’s {Gift Card Giveaway}

(Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Houlihan’s via MomTrends.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Houlihan’s or Momtrends.)

Going out to eat at a sit down restaurant is normally reserved for special occasions in my family but we decided to break the routine and go out to eat last night. We went to Houlihan’s which I hadn’t been to in years. After a short wait we were seated and I ordered one of the few adult drinks I like called a “Miami Vice”.

The boys checked out the kid’s menu and stuck with their typical corn dog and chicken tenders. I liked that there was a variety of foods for kids and the sides weren’t just the typical ones you’d expect to see. Lucas chose fresh strawberries for his side and Jacob chose tortilla chips and salsa. Along with the entree and side, kids get a drink, dessert (ice cream or flavored apple sauce) and an appetizer of carrot sticks with ranch dip. With all this included I was surprised to find the kid’s meals were only $5.95!

For our appetizer I ordered the Parmesan Frites not realizing that was just a fancy way of saying french fries. They came with three dipping sauces, my favorite of which was the garlic parmesan dipping sauce.

Sinisa chose the salmon dinner with asparagus and mashed potatoes as his sides. I wanted to save plenty of room for dessert so I ordered a pulled pork slider and side salad. I loved that the pulled pork was a chunk of meat and not little pieces. It also came with fried pickles on it which is a delicious combo.

Nobody could decide on dessert so we chose a few! I had to try one of the seasonal specials, the chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries and whipped cream. It was absolutely amazing and was one of their light choices at only 410 calories. We also got a brownie sundae and doughnuts with a caramel apple dip. It was a delicious way to end our family day!

Houlihan’s had a great atmosphere. I like that they do their best to source the highest quality ingredients from partners committed to traditional farming practices and responsible stewardship of the land. Wherever possible, they choose smaller, artisan partners and make every effort to choose ingredients that are free of preservatives, antibiotics, and hormones. I also love their website design along with it is really creative sayings like “if you like it, put a pin on it“.

Giveaway:

One reader will win a $50 gift card to Houlihan’s

How to enter:

Leave a comment telling me why you want to win

Extra entry:

Share this giveaway on a social network and leave a comment below

Giveaway ends March 25, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be 18 years of age or older and a US resident to enter.

Breakfast Shakes That Are Actually Delicious

(Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Quaker. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

I’ll be honest, in between getting the boys ready for school, checking email, packing Luke’s lunch, and starting my work day, I don’t ever have breakfast if Sinisa isn’t home to make it for me. Normally I will just have some coffee and that’s it. By mid-morning I am starving and checking to see what snacks I can grab to eat while working.

When I heard about Quaker’s new Breakfast Shakes I wasn’t sure what to expect. I love a number of Quaker products but normally breakfast shakes taste like flavored ground chalk. {Well they do! Don’t they?} I remember drinking my mom’s when I was in elementary school and junior high and they were grainy in texture and not that appetizing.

I’m happy to say that the Quaker Breakfast Shakes were absolutely delicious. Even though they had oats in them there was not a single bit of texture in the shakes. The oats were ground so fine that the shakes were silky smooth. I loved the chocolate shake the most. I tried the strawberry one and found that I enjoyed that one as well.

The best part about the shakes is the fact that they are truly a “breakfast”. Having one in the morning filled me up and I didn’t find myself digging through my fridge and my pantry to find something to snack on. That’s a lot of calories I’m avoiding each day just by avoiding the chips or candy.

Being able to drink them while checking things off my to-do list or running an errand. That’s just a bonus! I will be buying some next time I go to the grocery store to make sure I’m starting my day off right.

Truffula Tree Cupcakes

In preschool classrooms everywhere, the March 2nd birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel {aka Dr. Seuss} is widely celebrated. My family has celebrated in different ways over the years {including DIY Seuss themed socks for Silly Sock day} and there are literally hundreds of ideas on Pinterest.

Target has a fun Seuss themed treat on their blog and they asked me to share it with my readers if I thought you all would be interested. I took one look at how adorable these were and had to share!  These Truffula Tree Cupcakes were created by Courtney Whitmore of Pizzazzerie.

Find the recipe on Target’s blog here.

Showing Love With Baked Goods {Gift Card Giveaways}

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post as part of Rich Products #bakerybecause program but all thoughts are my own.)

My boys love their sweets so for Valentine’s Day I wanted to give them some gifts they could enjoy for a special dessert. I’d love to bake but don’t really have much time to do so, so I head to my local grocery store to pickup their favorite cookies and cakes. Instead of just picking up items from the store and giving them in the bakery boxes I decided to get a little creative and figure out some special ways to share them.

I had some chocolate brownies and I decided to make the large brownies into bite sized pieces so they were easier for my kids to eat and not as messy. Once cut I packaged them in a couple different ways.

I used a gift card box and took out the insert inside where the card was supposed to go. I added Valentine’s themed mini muffin wrappers and then put a piece of brownie in each wrapper. Put the lid on, add a couple pieces of tape to the sides, and voila….a little box of yumminess!

For the second half of the brownies I decided to put them in these cute baking wrappers I found. You could even add some mini marshmallows in with them! Once in the wrappers they can be enclosed in clear cellophane.

I found a lot of fun ways to give the cookies. Some I put in little dollar value boxes I found. Some I put into treat bags decorated with curly ribbons at the top. I found a mug with some candies in it and took the candies out and refilled it with cookies which I think would be a great gift paired with a package of coffee beans or a gift card to a coffee shop. I also found little Valentine’s take out boxes with heart cut outs that I thought would be a hit with Sinisa as a special dessert after a Chinese dinner.

I also found a box of mini chocolate cakes adorned with frosting hearts. They were adorable so I wanted to display them. These will be given in a heart shaped tray wrapped in the heart cellophane that the white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies are wrapped in.

What is your favorite way to gift baked goods and who would you give a delicious gift to? Check out the giveaway below!

GIVEAWAY

Three people will win $25 gift cards

HOW TO ENTER

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me who makes your life special

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Leave a comment telling me what special way you’d gift a baked good

4) Subscribe to this blog via email

Giveaway ends February 20, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be 18 or older and a US resident to win.

Our Big Game Celebration With Gold Emblem Snacks

Football and food are two of my favorite things so when CVS/pharmacy contacted me about sponsoring my next football party I was so excited. Even though my favorite team didn’t make it all the way I was still looking forward to the big game last weekend.

CVS/pharmacy sent me an assortment of products from their exclusive Gold Emblem collection including a variety of nuts and other snacks, cookies, and juices. The morning of the party I went shopping to get the rest of the food, tableware and the decorations. Since I was short on time I decided to keep everything simple and I think everything turned out pretty good.

I am a huge fan of “themed” parties so everything except for a few bowls was football themed. I even had a special centerpiece- a signed Walter Payton football {thanks to my brother for letting me borrow it}!

Check out my little helpers above! We had to represent and wear our Bears football gear! I didn’t really have a favorite team to win until I heard Derrick Coleman’s inspiring story {about being deaf} the week before the game and then started rooting for the Seattle Seahawks to win.

I used little snack cups to display all of the nuts, the trail mix, the popcorn, and the pretzels that CVS/pharmacy had sent me. These snacks were a huge hit with the kids, especially my niece.

Cheese and cracker trays are popular at parties. I decided to try a new type of cheese with white cheddar and chipotle peppers and it was really good.

Spinach dip is healthy because it has spinach in it right? ;) We love to eat ours’ with Hawaiian bread.

We had chips and dip and tortilla chips and dip. I love the taco dip my mom made. It’s a layered dip but she makes it without the refried beans. {Thankfully there was a whole dish full of it on the counter…otherwise what you see in the picture above would have been all mine.}

After eating appetizers the kids played games with their Nana and my sister in law. I was busy watching the game and being disappointed in the commercials. For dinner we had pizza and chicken wings.

 After dinner it was dessert time! There were cupcakes and two types of Gold Emblem branded cookies. After more football it was time to say goodbye and my guests received goodie bags from CVS/Pharmacy.

We had such a fun time and I enjoyed tasting all of the delicious Gold Emblem snacks. My favorites are the Natural Pistachios, Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels and the Cranberry Nut Trail Mix. The line has over 250 products so there is something for everyone, from savory to sweet.

What foods do you like to have at your sports parties?

Game Time Snack: RITZ Pastrami and Corned Beef Mini Sandwiches

Check out this amazing game time appetizer that the folks at Ritz shared with me. This featured recipe is the snack-size take on the famous Carnegie Deli signature dish. Yum!

Find the recipe here.

Saving Money At The Grocery Store

(Disclosure: This is a compensated post but all thoughts are my own.)

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how I was cutting down on expenses to save money. I had a list of 8 things I was doing in the month of January and one of them was to eat less fast food and more of the leftovers we had in the fridge. Trying to pinch every penny, I have been looking into saving on food even more. Ideally I’d love to find out how to provide my family with quality food but just find a more cost efficient way to do so.

I checked out the Illinois Farm Families blog to learn more about healthy eating and shopping for food. Some of the posts were written by moms I know so I knew I could trust what they wrote. I was really interested in food labeling since food that is “better for you” is often more expensive. I wanted to see if I was really getting what I paid for.

The first article I came upon was called Five Misleading Food Labels and had one key line that stuck out to me:

I know that if I was comparing two products next to each other I’d probably choose the one that was labeled “no _____” on it but the one next to it could be free of whatever the other label claimed as well. No reason to pay extra for the one with a special label if they both are free from the same thing.

The next article I read was from a mom who toured the Dean’s Plant. From this article I discovered that the milk in my grocery store’s dairy case is all the same. Why am I paying more for a gallon of milk labeled “Dean’s” when it is just the same as the milk that is sold under the store’s label. Yay for saving money on something we buy tons of!

Another thing I read about was a store that I’d consider a “discount” food store and all of the guidelines they have about freshness (read the article here). It made me rethink where I get my groceries and the fact that I can find quality food for cheaper prices. I will be checking out all of my local grocery stores and seeing where I can find good deals while still maintaining the quality of food that I want.

So excited to be able to cut our food budget down. What other tips do you have for me when it comes to saving money at the grocery store?

Meatloaf Sandwiches {Recipe}

With the big game coming up I wanted to share this perfect sandwich created by Executive Chef John Brand of Mokara Hotel and Spa and Ostra restaurant. Chef Brand created this recipe with LoSalt instead of regular salt which is an easy way to reduce sodium intake.

Serves 6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Serrano Pepper seeds removed fine chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon LoSalt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup JRB BBQ Sauce
  • 1 cup Ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Veal stock
  • 3 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. Maple Syrup
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan Reggiano
  • 4 Slices Applewood Smoked Bacon

Liquid Mixture:

In a small bowl, combine JRB BBQ sauce, ketchup, Balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and veal stock.

Meat Mixture:

In a large bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onions, green bell pepper, parsley, chopped garlic, egg, seasonings, 3/4 cup of liquid mixture, and Parmesan cheese.

Form into loaf. Place into shallow 7 by 10 in. pan or bread loaf tin, lightly oiled. Top with bacon Slices and glaze with some of the remaining liquid mixture to coat.

Bake in a 350°F oven for one hour and 15 minutes, basting occasionally with remaining liquid mixture or straight barbecue sauce. Drain off excess rendered fat as needed during cooking process.

Service:

Toasted potato or challah buns, small, slider size.  Serve 3 oz warm meatloaf slice on a bun with sharp white cheddar.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for posting this recipe but this recipe was provided by LoSalt.)

 

 

Getting Kids To Try New Vegetables {Veggie Pinwheels Recipe}

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

My boys are leery of new foods and if I put any on their dinner plate they eye them, poke them, and smell them and then say “I don’t like this”. I remind them that they won’t know if they like something unless they taste it and that usually gets some grumbles but they eventually end up trying the new food. They’ve discovered a variety of new favorites this way. Jacob especially loves red, orange and yellow peppers and Lucas has found he likes a variety of different fruits and that sweet peas are pretty good too (especially when he can pop them out of the pod).

One vegetable the boys had never tried before was radishes. Even as an adult I can’t remember a time when I had a radish on anything other than a salad. Duda Farm Fresh Foods makes Radish MiniSticks. They’re ready-to-eat shredded radishes that are very crunchy and juicy.

I was challenged to try to integrate this veggie in a recipe. I remembered one of my favorite way to eat cucumbers is with ham and cream cheese and then I immediately thought about making a kid-friendly wrap for the kids. I used cucumbers and peppers along with the radishes but if your child has a vegetable they prefer you can substitute it. I thought the hint of sweetness worked perfect with the tangy taste of the radishes.

Ingredients:

  • Cucumber (sliced thin)
  • Bag of Radish MiniSticks
  • Sweet Peppers (sliced thin)
  • Ham (lunchmeat)
  • Provolone Cheese slices
  • Cream Cheese
  • Tortillas
  • Toothpicks (optional, makes cutting easier)
Directions:
  • Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on a tortilla
  • Sprinkle veggies on the cream cheese
  • Add a couple of slices of ham and cheese
  • Starting at one end, roll tortilla
  • Stick toothpicks in the top of the roll to make cutting easier
  • Cut roll into slices making sure a toothpick is in each slice
  • Remove toothpick before eating

The verdict? Yum! The pinwheel sandwiches are a fun alternative to normal lunches and are full of crunchy veggies! What vegetable filled recipes have you tried with your kids lately?

 

 

Tomato Soup “Dunkables”

(Disclosure: I am an Ambassador for Campbell Soup Company and ‘The Wisest Kid In The Whole World” campaign. All thoughts are my own.)

There is nothing better on a cold day, especially one with a snow-filled morning of fun, than a bowl of soup for lunch. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed eating tomato soup with grilled cheese on the side. There’s just something about a warm bowl of soup paired with cheesy goodness that I love.

According to The Wisest Kid, there are “More ways to dunk than can be thunk.” What do your wise kids prefer with their Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup? If you or your kids love dunking grilled cheese in tomato soup like I do I am excited to share a list of alternative “dunkers” and “toppers” with you all. Campbell Soup Company got my list started and I added a bunch more dunkable items to the list. Lunch will never be the same!

Dunkers and Toppers:

  • String cheese
  • Pita Bread
  • Diced onions
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish® crackers
  • Chicken chunks
  • Bell peppers
  • Saltine crackers
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Ground beef
  • Diced pepperoni
  • Croutons
  • Strips of tortilla

Campbell’s newest commercial is adorable. Check out the musical abilities of the wisest kid!

Want some more winter-friendly recipes? Try this recipe for Skillet Chicken & Broccoli or Cheeseburger Mac & Cheese.

Delicious Holiday Appetizers From Sam’s Club {Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I was provided a gift card from Sam’s Club but all thoughts are my own.)

On Thanksgiving we were going to my mom’s for a big turkey dinner in the evening so we decided to stick with snacks for the rest of the day. We did this because who wants to fill up on a meal when you know you are going to get one of the best meals of the year later in the day? Sinisa, the boys and I headed to Sam’s Club to get everything we needed to make a delicious spread of appetizers to bring to his sister’s house for our pre-Thanksgiving dinner visit.

Sam’s Club is a one-stop destination for all my holiday needs because it has a large variety of items and I can save money by buying them all in bulk. They also offer a 200% guarantee on fresh foods so if members aren’t satisfied with the items they’ve purchased Sam’s club will refund double the member’s purchase price or refund the purchase price and replace the product. That is a pretty awesome guarantee!

The first place we went was to the bakery. Sam’s Club has over 60 new bakery items just for the holidays including several bite-sized delights like cake balls. We picked up a loaf of freshly baked zucchini bread which reminded me of the bread my mom used to make. We also grabbed a couple packages of Hawaiian bread as well.

I normally pair Hawaiian bread with homemade spinach dip but while shopping I came across Artisan Fresh Spinach Artichoke dip. I am so glad I got this because this dip is the best dip I’ve ever had. There was Parmesan cheese mixed in with the spinach and artichoke and the flavors went so well together.

A cheese plate is a must at any party. We kept our’s simple with Ritz crackers, colby cheese, and salami. The cheese was already cubed which was a great time saver. Sam’s Club has over 50 international cheeses so if you like to make gourmet cheese platters they have lots to choose from.

Along with the cubed cheese we decided to get some fresh mozzarella. It was in a marinade already so we stuck the cheese on a toothpick along with a cherry tomato and had a quick snack that tasted so fresh.

We also chose to get shrimp cocktail which is something we don’t have very often. Yum!

I’m looking forward to Christmas day because we are doing the same things we did on Thanksgiving! We will have a special breakfast in the morning but other than that we are snacking on finger foods from Sam’s Club all day. If you aren’t a member of Sam’s Club yet I invite you to check out all they have to offer! 

GIVEAWAY:

4 Tier Accordion Server

HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment telling me what appetizers you love to have during the holiday season

FOR A BONUS ENTRY:

Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends December 31, 2013 at 11:59pm CST. Must be 18 or older and a US resident to enter.

How To Make Perfect Sugar Cookies

With baking season in full-swing I wanted to share these 9 tips from Country Woman magazine to help you make the perfect sugar cookie. I’ll be baking with the boys tomorrow so these tips came just in time!

1.    Don’t Be Too Touchy: Use a light touch when handling the dough. Over-handling will result in tough cookies.

2.    Stay Cool: Refrigerate the dough before rolling for easier handling.

3.    Avoid Sticky Situations: Prevent sticking by lightly dusting with flour both the rolling pin and work surface. Be careful—working     too much extra flour into the dough will make the cookies tough.

4.    Start Small: Roll out a portion of the dough at a time; keep remaining dough in the fridge so it stays easy to work with.

5.    Create An Even Playing Field: Roll from the center to the edge, keeping a uniform thickness. Check thickness with a ruler. Uneven dough means cookies will bake unevenly, and thinner cookies may burn before thicker ones are done.

6.    Get a Clean Cut: Dip your cutter in flour or use nonstick cooking spray to keep dough from sticking to the cookie cutter.

7.    Take Out the Tools: Keep cutouts intact before and after baking by transferring them to and from the baking sheet with a large    metal spatula or pancake turner that supports the entire cutout.

8.    Keep it Simple: Limit designs and colors when decorating. Too many colors and shapes can be overwhelming.

9.    Leave Them Out to Dry: Let decorated cookies dry overnight before packaging them for gift giving or freezing.

Learn About Illinois Farms With Me

(Disclosure: This post is compensated but all thoughts are my own.)

My grandpa was a farmer. I remember getting to visit him when I was younger and I thought it was so cool that he got to be around animals all day (especially horses because those are my favorite animals). I understood nothing abut what he did on a daily basis and what it took to run a farm and to be honest, I still have no clue.

When I was asked to be a Blog Ambassador for Illinois Farm Families® I was excited and accepted because that meant I would get to head back to a farm and I’d get to understand what my grandfather really did. I also looked forward to learning more about growing food and seeing where my food comes from. It’s not everyday that you get that chance.

Looking into Illinois Farm Families more I learned that nearly all Illinois farms – 94 percent of them – are family owned and operated. I always thought that nowadays most farms were owned by corporations so it was really awesome to know that there are people like you and me running these farms and growing the food we eat. They feed their families the food they grow.

It was interesting looking on the Illinois Farm Families website and seeing that they are completely open about what goes on at the farms. They have Chicago area moms who are invited to be “Field Moms” and visit a variety of Illinois family farms to meet the farmers who grow crops and vegetables and raise livestock. They also invite people to ask questions through their website to learn more about how food is grown, technology that is used on the farm, environmental issues, and more.

What questions do you have about farming in Illinois? You can look for monthly blog posts over the next year answering my questions for the farmers (and yours too). I look forward to documenting my experiences and sharing what I learn with you all.

 

Sinfully Sweet Cinnamon Apples {Recipe}

Cinnamon apples are the perfect Fall treat. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 6 Fuji or Granny Smith apples
  • ¼ cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 6 cinnamon sticks

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Core apples to ½ inch of the bottom of the apples.  It helps if you have an apple corer.  If not, simply use a paring knife.  Cut out the stem area first, then the core.  Use a spoon to dig out the seeds.  Make the holes about ¾-inch wide.
  • Mix apple juice concentrate and vanilla.  Pour into cored center of each apple.
  • Place a cinnamon stick in the center of each apple.  Place apples on nonstick baking sheet and bake in oven for 20 minutes.

(Recipe and image courtesy of Pritikin Longevity Center.)

Gift Giving With Lindt Chocolates

Every Christmas my children’s teachers get the same thing as gifts: chocolate! I figure that it’s a pretty safe gift because almost everyone loves it. One of my favorite chocolates are LINDOR truffles so I was really excited to get an assortment of them to review. They come in a variety of flavors and literally melt in your mouth.

Lindt’s special Holiday collection contains, among other items, two large gift bags filled with truffles. Each bag is ready to gift which is nice because you can save yourself some time since you don’t have to wrap it. I love the felt bag because the design and ribbon make the gift look like it cost a lot more than $25.

The bags feature some of Lindt’s top LINDOR truffle flavors including: Milk Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate, and Extra Dark Chocolate. My favorites are the White Chocolate Truffles and Peanut Butter Truffles.  They are so delicious!

Find all of the flavors on Lindt’s website. Which flavor is your favorite?

Sweet Potato Clam Chowder with Bacon {Recipe}

Ingredients

  • 2 dozen Medium clams such as Manila OR 3 dozen Small clams such as Littlenecks
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of clam juice, as needed
  • 1 cup Diced raw applewood smoked bacon: about 4 to 5 slices
  • 1 tablespoon of Cat Cora’s Kitchen by Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium yellow onion, chopped (1 ½ cups)
  • 2 stalks Celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3½ cups Raw sweet potato, peeled and diced into 2-inch chunks (about ¼ pound)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups Half and Half

Instructions

Scrub the clams well. Spread them in an even layer in a large 12-inch frying pan with a lid. Add the water, cover, and bring to the water to a boil. Set a heatproof bowl nearby to hold the cooked clams. Cook the clams until the shells open, about 2 to 5 minutes. As a clam opens, remove it from the pan with tongs and plop it into the waiting bowl. Give the clams 5 minutes more to cook, transferring clams as they open. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and discard any clams that remain closed. Pour the pan liquid through a fine-meshed sieve or cheesecloth to strain out any grit. You should have about 1 1/2 cups clam cooking liquid. If there is less than that, add enough bottled clam juice to equal this amount. Set the liquid aside. Transfer the clams, still in their shells, back to the pan and cover it with a lid to keep the clams from drying out while you finish the chowder.

Cook the bacon in a 3-quart soup pot until crisp and brown. When the bacon is done transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pot. Discard the rest of the bacon fat. Using the same soup pot in which you cooked the bacon, pour back in the 1 tablespoon of bacon fat, add the olive oil and heat over a medium flame for a few seconds; add the onion and celery. Cook vegetables until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, clam cooking liquid, the bay leaf, salt and pepper. (Save the cooked bacon to sprinkle over the chowder just before serving.) Cover the pan and simmer just until the sweet potatoes are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

While the chowder simmers, remove the clams from their shell. You can use a paring knife or even a grapefruit spoon to scrape them out of their shells and into a bowl. Discard the shells. When the sweet potatoes are perfectly done, add the clams to the chowder. Pour in the Half and Half, heat gently until the chowder is piping hot, and ladle it into individual serving bowls. Sprinkle bacon around the edge of the chowder and serve.

Recipe and image courtesy of Celebrity Chef Cat Cora.

 

Easy Indian Food At Home

The first time I had Indian food I was in my 20s. I babysat for a family that made it on a regular basis and each time I watched the kids they’d offer it to me. My first taste sent me guzzling the closest drink I could find because I do not like spicy foods. The family showed me how adding yogurt to the food took some of the spice away and I discovered that I did enjoy this type of food.

I’d never made my own Indian food until I was sent some products from Jaali Bean to try. They sent me three meal kits: Creamy Coconut Lentil & Rice Kit, Savory & Spiced Lentil Soup Kit, and Cardamom and Currant Lentil & Brown Rice Kit. I liked that the packages showed the heat level so I knew to start with the mild flavored meals first.

I tried the Creamy Coconut meal first since it sounded delicious and sweet. The kit contained everything I’d need to make the meal. When I opened up the pouch it smelled heavenly.

I like that the meals don’t take more than 30 minutes to make which is perfect for busy parents. I also don’t need any extra ingredients other than cooking oil. Those on special diets will love that many are Gluten-Free and some are vegan and vegetarian as well. All kits contain all natural, non-GMO verified ingredients, too.

The rice tasted just as good as it smelled. I ate mine with some leftover beef kabobs but you can pair yours with any meat you’d like or eat it on it’s own. I am looking forward to trying the other two flavors that I have. Want to make your own Indian food at home? Find Jaali Bean products in specialty stores and high-end groceries throughout the US. Learn more at JaaliBean.com.

(Disclosure: I received meal kits to review but all thoughts are my own.)

10 Easy Breakfasts Kids Will Love

Cold cereal again? If you are in a breakfast rut like we are, check out these 10 easy breakfast ideas courtesy of Target that your kids will eat up (literally!)

Omelette on the go

  • Omelette on the go. Fried, scrambled and boiled may be more traditional egg preparations, but did you know you can bake eggs? Whisk together your favorite omelette mixture (eggs, tomato and cheese is ours), pour into silicon muffin cups, bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. They’ll keep for a few days in the fridge.
  • Cream of wheat with rainbow sprinkles. Your kids will find a way to sneak sugar into their breakfast cereal. Why not let them have fun while they’re at it?
  • Breakfast burrito with turkey sausage.  A whole wheat wrap stuffed with scrambled eggs with turkey sausage, low-fat cheese and a little mild salsa is a crowd-pleasing breakfast that also happens to travel well.
  • Apples with brown sugar yogurt. Dip sliced apples into a mixture of Greek yogurt and brown sugar (about a tablespoon per cup of yogurt). Let’s call it breakfast fondue!
  • English muffin pizza: Pizza for breakfast? Yes, please! Top an English muffin with leftover spaghetti sauce and mozzarella (or any cheese, for that matter). Bake in the toaster oven until the cheese has melted.

Breakfast banana split

  • Breakfast banana split. Just like it sounds—swap Greek yogurt for ice cream and honey for chocolate syrup. Top with crunchy granola or fresh berries.
  • Griddled corn muffin. Corn bread is one of life’s simple pleasures. It should be served accordingly—toasted with butter and honey.
  • The Elvis (for beginners). Elvis loved his peanut butter-bacon-banana sandwiches and for a good reason—they’re delicious. For a healthier twist, cut back on the bacon, substitute almond butter and use whole wheat bread. Bonus points for grilling on a panini pan.
  • Eggy pita pocket. The self-contained breakfast sandwich: Stuff scrambled eggs and any additional toppings (grated cheese, bell pepper, diced tomato) into a toasted pita pocket.
  • Strawberry coconut Bircher muesli. Mix plain yogurt, rolled oats, coconut flakes and strawberries with any nuts or sweeteners (like maple syrup or honey) your kids like. Pour into small single-serving jars or plastic containers, and leave overnight in the fridge.
Want even more ideas? Check out the rest of them on Target’s blog here.
(Disclosure: Images and ideas courtesy of Target.)

 

5 Halloween Party Foods

Hosting a Halloween party? Check out these 5 spooktacular treats and appetizers, courtesy of Cheryl Najafi, that will make your party one that will be talked about for years to come.

Creepy Crawly Deviled Eggs

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Popcorn Eyeballs

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Halloween Caramel Apples with DIY Broomsticks

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Creepy Cheese Stick Fingers

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Halloween Donut Hole Monsters

Find even more Halloween ideas (including decor and costumes) here.

About Cheryl: New York Times best-selling author of party-centric You’re So Invited: Panic Less, Play More and Get Your Party On!, no-fuss home entertaining and lifestyle expert, Cheryl Najafi, is revolutionizing home entertainment with simple, affordable, easy-to-do tips that ‘break the rules’ of “proper” hosting etiquette on CHERYLSTYLE.COM, along with ideas for DIY food & drink, handmade fashion, and practical yet artful innovative decor.

Chicago Mix Popcorn

(Disclosure: I received samples but thoughts are my own.)

Chicago Mix Popcorn

Have you ever heard of Chicago Mix Popcorn before? It’s a concept that is fairly new to me but I love it. What it does is take the sweet taste of caramel popcorn and the salty taste of cheese popcorn and combines the two flavored popcorn into one bag. No idea how it got it’s name but it’s delicious!

I recently received samples of GH Cretors Popcorn. The caramel corn is made the old fashioned way: by hand, in copper kettles. Cane sugar, brown rice syrup (a non-GMO alternative to corn syrup with a lower glycemic impact) and real butter is heated over a flame and then stirred slowly by hand to develop its rich complex flavor and crunch. For the cheese corn, real cheddar cheese is melted in special kettles and then gently mixed with locally-grown, air-popped corn. The result is a perfect combination of tastes, two-cheese to one-caramel in every bag. And, this treat is all natural and completely free of GMO’s, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives!

Not a fan of mixing your popcorn flavors? You are in luck because GH Cretors sells “Just the Cheese Corn” and “Just the Caramel Corn” separately. Also, just in time for Halloween, they are selling single serve sized bags of the popcorn that is just right for handing out to Trick-or-Treaters.

Which flavor would you try first?

Healthier Drink Choices With V8 V-Fusion® Refreshers

(Disclosure: I received products and compensation but all thoughts are my own.)

My boys drink a lot of juice so I was happy to learn about the new V8 V-Fusion® Refreshers because these juice drinks are naturally sweetened and taste delicious which is something both kids and adults love! Made with both fruit and vegetable juices, V8 V-Fusion Refreshers also contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and are an excellent source of Vitamin C. While it’s not made of 100% juice, I think it’s a healthier choice than some of the other juice drinks my children want that are full of artificial flavors and colors.

The juice drinks come in four delicious – and unique – family pleasing flavors: Black Cherry Berry, Cranberry Grape, Tangerine Passionfruit and Peach Strawberry. My family received the Black Cherry Berry and the Tangerine Passionfruit to try.

We loved the Black Cherry Berry (in fact, I’m on my second cup of it as I write this post). It’s full of flavor and I can definitely taste the cherries but like that I taste multiple fruits at once. I also like that it has only 100 calories per serving. Sinisa said it was “delightful” and “refreshing”. The boys loved that it was really sweet and I know that they will be begging me for more soon. It’s great to find a juice drink that we all agree on!

What flavor would you try first?

Save The Season With FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer

(Disclosure: I received compensation for my time but thoughts are my own.)

Can you believe that Farmer’s Market Season is almost over? I loved going to my local Farmer’s Market and getting fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy throughout the week. Luckily, I have a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer so I can save the season and enjoy the produce throughout the cold winter months.

I enjoyed spending a day at a Chicago Farmer’s Market with the FoodSaver team and educating the public about proper food storage. People would purchase fruits and vegetables at the market and then would bring them to us to vacuum seal. While there I came across people who would come up to the tent and told me how they loved their FoodSaver system and others who had never heard of it before.

Ordinary bag vs. FoodSaver

It was great seeing their faces when I shared how the product worked and did a little demo for them. When I shared how long their foods would stay fresh with FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer they were shocked.

Throughout the day I also had the chance to walk around the market. There were lots of delicious foods to try and a wide variety of fresh food and flowers.

I bought some peaches and green beans from the market. What is your favorite fruit or vegetable to get from Farmer’s Markets? {And check out the size of these carrots in the picture below!}

Stay tuned next month when I reveal how fresh the FoodSaver system kept my produce for the past few months :)

#CookWithKohls Sweepstakes

I partnered with Kohl’s a lot this past Summer and Fall to show you some hot fashions but this month I’m working with them to help share the word about their new #CookWithKohls Sweepstakes. Check out the Food Network page on Kohls.com for loads of inspiration, recipes and pics.

I went shopping yesterday in the kitchen department at Kohl’s and was surprised by how much they offered. I had bought small appliances at Kohl’s before but hadn’t ventured into the department that much. Check out what I bought:

I got mini pie pans to make individual apple pies with all of the apples I have leftover from apple picking. I got collapsible measuring cups because we needed them. I love that they collapse to save room since we don’t have much cabinet space. I also got a dutch oven because I’ve never had one and I’ve always wanted one :)

Want to win the #CookWithKohls Sweepstakes so you can get some Food Network items of your own? To enter, log onto Twitter or Instagram and show/tell us what you’re baking for a chance to win a $500 Kohl’s Gift Card. One grand prize winner will even win a $5,000 Kohl’s Gift Card! Follow @Kohls and include the hashtag #CookWithKohls. Rules: http://oak.ctx.ly/r/bhwo

Here was my entry into the Sweepstakes:

See how easy that is? It took me less than a minute to enter to win a gift card! Good luck!

(Disclosure: I received a gift card from Kohl’s to go shopping but all thoughts are my own.)

First Birthday Smash Cake Recipes

(Disclosure: This is a compensated post but all thoughts are my own.)

Above is one of my favorite pictures of Lucas. It’s him enjoying his cake on his first birthday. He loved smashing it and squishing it between his hands and it was fun to watch his face as he tasted the sweetness of the cake.

Betty Crocker, America’s baking expert, surveyed moms and found that the most memorable part of a first birthday party is the birthday cake itself. To help make the moment extra special with a homemade touch, Betty Crocker has created a line-up of easy-to-make birthday smash cake recipes that babies can’t wait to get their hands on. Here are some of my favorites:

Confetti Smash Cake

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#1 Cutout Smash Cake

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Cheerios Smash Cake

Aren’t those the cutest!? You can find more great smash cake recipes here. Also, check out the infographic from Betty Crocker below to see how easy it is to make your child’s smash cake for their first birthday!

What did you do for your child’s first birthday? I’d love to hear :)

Pumpkin Mousse {Recipe}

INGREDIENTS

  • 15 oz. Pumpkin Puree ( Libby’s)
  • 1 oz. sugar free, fat free vanilla
  • 1 Cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger
  • 2 cups of heavy cream ( for whipped  cream)
  • 2 teaspoons confectionary sugar (for whipped cream)
  • 1 Cup crumbled ginger cookie
  • Chocolate chips (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • In a mixer, whip the heavy cream with the confectionary sugar. Start at a slow speed then increase speed to make the mix firmer. Do not mix for more than 5-6 minutes. Refrigerate the whip cream for about two hours.
  • In another mixer bowl add all the other ingredients and mix at medium speed for about five minutes.

TO ASSEMBLE THE MOUSSE:

  • Choose a medium high 12 oz. clear glass and pipe in the pumpkin mousse then add the crumbled ginger cookie, then pipe in the whip cream. At this point the glass should be half way full, use the same amount one more time and top with the cookie. Add chocolate chips for garnish if you’d like.

Recipe and image courtesy of Maria Zoitas, catering director at Westside Market NYC and creator of Maria’s Homemade, a line of prepared food sold exclusively at Westside Market NYC.

Easy Meals With Flatout Flatbread & StarKist Tuna {$50 Target Gift Card Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received a gift card and products but all thoughts are my own.)

You all know how much I love easy meals and there’s nothimg much easier than a sandwich. Even better is a sandwich I can make with items I got on sale so that’s why I’m really happy to share about a great deal at Super Target. From now through October 14th, when you buy Flatout Flatbread at Super Target, you get a free pouch of StarKist tuna! It’s like hitting the mealtime bullseye—great ingredients, great taste, and great value!

I’ve had Flatout before and love it so much more than bread. Bread gets soggy {ick!} but Flatout doesn’t seem to which is great. Flatout is also low in fat and a good source of fiber. I’ve used it to make Southwestern Chicken Paninis, Crispy Onion Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches, and a Cucumber Turkey Club.

This is the first time that I have had tuna from a pouch instead of a can. I’d seen it sitting on the shelf at the store but never purchased it. I like how it makes the tuna portable and they are all less than 110 calories, too. The flavor options were great as well- so much flavor in one pouch!

This week we threw dinner together in less than 5 minutes after we got home from soccer practice. Sinisa mixed a pouch of tuna with relish, mayo, and diced onions and then put it on some flatout, sprinkled it with shredded cheese, and dinner was done. Easy peasy! Find more Flatout/StarKist recipes here.

GIVEAWAY: 

One reader will win a $50 Target Gift Card

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me what you’d make with Flatout Flatbread

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow Flatout Flatbread on Twitter

4) Follow StarKist Tuna on Twitter

5) Follow me on Twitter

6) Comment on another one of my posts

7) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right hand corner)

Giveaway ends October 30, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or older and a US resident to enter.

Bears Football And Buffalo Wild Wings: The Perfect Combination

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Buffalo Wild Wings for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m sure you all know by now that I love football.  I loudly cheer for my Chicago Bears and have even been getting my young boys into the game (though lately my 4 year old has started cheering for the Packers so I obviously have some more work to do there).

 photo BWW_GenBrandV2_Black_Retargeting_300x250_zps1e81f6aa.jpg

One of my favorite football foods is wings and not just any wings but honey bbq boneless wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. I often send Sinisa out to pick them up when there are night games since the kids are sleeping. Thursday night games are great because then he can get a deal on my wings during Boneless Thursdays.

Mid-day Sunday games are my favorite because we can go as a whole family to enjoy the game and some family time at the restaurant after we go to Church. The boys love the arcade like games they have as well and I don’t have to worry about them being loud because the whole restaurant is loud- especially when our team scores a touchdown!

I look forward to many more football games at Buffalo WIld Wings with my family because there is nothing better than football and wings with the ones I love! Connect with Buffalo WIld Wings! Follow Buffalo Wild Wings on Twitter or Like Buffalo Wild Wings on Facebook.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Fun Pasta Fundraising {Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received a box of products to review but all thoughts are my own.)

Let’s face it…there are only so many rolls of wrapping paper a family can use. Both my boys had wrapping paper/magazine/candy fundraisers and, even though they were at different schools, sold pretty much the same thing. I’m happy to be able to share about a fun fundraising alternative that people will actually want to buy because it’s unique!

Fun Pasta Fundraising is a fundraiser where students can sell pasta from a colorful booklet or online and the school keeps 40%-50% of the profits. There are lots of  themed pasta shapes for holidays, special occasions, and even sports teams.

Lunchtime will be fun with animal shaped pasta! Kids can practice their letters while eating ABC pasta. A birthday celebration can be made even more happy with Happy Birthday pasta!

Know any sports fans? Choose from over 50 Collegiate teams! Wouldn’t this be perfect for game day?! I really want to get the OSU pasta. Go Buckeyes!

Winter will be here before we know it and a bowl of hot soup with Snowman Pasta will taste delicious after an afternoon of playing in the snow. There are pastas for every season and holiday. We will be having some spooky soup for lunch on October 31st here at my home with their Halloween pasta.

Pasta soup mixes and noodle nests are also available. Like sweets? You can buy some delicious treats as well! I truly think that everyone will enjoy something from this fundraiser catalog.

You can request more information on hosting a fundraiser here. Want to order pasta? You can do so here.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a box filled with $30 of this fun pasta!

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me which themed pasta is your favorite

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends October 23, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to win.

Seasonal Pumpkin Menu At Einstein Bros. Bagels

I love pumpkin flavored everything so when I was asked to check out the seasonal offerings at Einstein Bros. Bagels I was really excited. I looked on their website to see what pumpkin flavored items they had. The new pumpkin menu items this year include Pumpkin Bagel Clusters, a Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Cookie and a new Frozen Pumpkin Pie drink. Einstein is also bringing back its signature Pumpkin and gourmet Pumpkin Walnut Crunch bagels, double-whipped Pumpkin Cream Cheese Shmear and Pumpkin Muffin.

The Frozen Pumpkin Pie drink sounded delicious but I wouldn’t drink it fast enough so I decided to go with an Iced Pumpkin Latte. All of the pumpkin treats looked good but since it was breakfast I chose to try the Pumpkin Walnut Crunch bagel with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Shmear.

The bagel was deliciously sweet and I loved the Pumpkin Shmear. I’m actually planning on going back and getting a tub of it since I found these recipes that I can make with the creamy pumpkin goodness. The Pumpkin Latte was comparable to others I have tried but I liked the little extra pumpkin syrup in the bottom of the cup.

Einstein Bros. Bagels pumpkin menu is available at all locations nationwide now through November 12th.

(Disclosure: I received a gift card to try items on the menu. All thoughts are my own.)

Quick Dinners With Betty Crocker {Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received products from Betty Crocker but all thoughts are my own.)

One of life’s simple pleasures is relaxing with my family after a long day. The last thing I want to do in the evenings is stand over a stove and cook so I try to stick with meals that I can get on the table quickly. With all-new Betty Crocker Ultimate Potatoes and Ultimate Helper mixes, I can feed my family delicious dinners that don’t take long to make. Each box comes with seasoning and a rich, creamy sauce and they come in a variety of flavors like Ultimate Chicken Helper Cheddar Broccoli and Betty Crocker Ultimate Au Gratin Potatoes.

We recently had the chance to try the Three Cheese Marinara Hamburger Helper. I loved how easy it was to make and that my whole family ate it, even my sometimes picky kids. I also liked that it was made with real tomatoes and the seasoning was naturally flavored.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a Betty Crocker Prize Package which contains
1 box of Ultimate Hamburger Helper, 1 box of Betty Crocker Ultimate Potatoes,
3-piece bamboo serving bowls, Serving spoon & 4 plates
Retail Value: $55

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me your favorite quick-to-prepare meal

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another post

Giveaway ends October 14, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be a US resident, 21 or older to win.

Delicious Potato Sides From McCain Foods

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for McCain Foods. I received a sample to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

Chicken is my go-to meal when I’m in a hurry. Sometimes as I’m cooking the chicken I realize that I need to add a couple side dishes to make it into a complete meal. I look in my pantry and freezer for options since I try to get a starch and a vegetable to pair with the meat.

One of my favorite sides is sweet potato fries. I had first tried them when I was dining out and when I discovered them in the frozen section I was so happy that I could make them at home.

Check out the size of these fries! Some of them are huge! I love pulling these out of the oven and seeing them nice and crispy. Sometimes I dip them in barbecue sauce but most of the time these are eaten plain. They are the perfect side for burgers, chicken, and steak.

Other favorites include their Spiral Fries and the Smiles. The Spiral Fries are covered with a delicious seasoning. The kids love the Smiles the most because they are fun. What are your favorite varieties of McCain Potato products?

McCain Potatoes is running a Facebook Contest where they will select 1 winner each week (8 winners total) to receive a $500 grocery store gift card!  Contestants can also check out the Grocery Goodness Giveaway tab on the Facebook page to receive a $1 off coupon off any 1 bag of McCain Potato products.

 

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp {Recipe}

Ingredients

  • 6 large tart apples (Pippin or Granny Smith)
  • 1/3 cup sugar, or 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

Topping

  • 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup millet flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Directions
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  • Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4-inch slices. 
  • Put the apple slices into a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar over the top. 
  • Add the tapioca starch, cinnamon, five-spice, ginger and salt and toss together to evenly coat the apple slices. 
  • Pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, dot the top with pieces of the butter and set aside. 
  • To make the topping, combine the flours, tapioca starch, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, five-spice and ginger in a mixing bowl. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix in the butter until it is uniformly incorporated into the flour mixture. Stir in the oats and pecans.
  • Crumble the oat topping evenly over the apples. 
  • Bake until the topping is golden brown and set and the apples are warm and bubbly, 55 to 60 minutes.

Note: You can prepare everything ahead of time. Refrigerate the apple filling and keep the topping frozen until ready to assemble and bake. Don’t refrigerate the unbaked topping overnight since the millet flour will interact with the butter and taste and smell cheesy when it’s baked.

Recipe and image courtesy of: Kyra Bussanich, two-time winner of The Food Network’s hit show, “Cupcake Wars.” She graduated with honors from Le Cordon Bleu and opened her award-winning bakery, Kyra’s Bake Shop, which features gourmet, gluten-free sweets. She has branched beyond desserts to other gluten-free goods in order to help those with celiac and other autoimmune diseases enjoy quality treats.

Oatmeal Is No Longer Only A Breakfast Food: Hearty Sweet Corn & Pancetta Oatmeal {Recipe}

(Disclosure: I am happy to be partnering with Quaker again. I did receive compensation but thoughts are my own.)

Quaker has always been synonymous with breakfast in my mind but recently I learned they made delicious snacks and this week I even discovered someone making dinner recipes with Quaker oats. Samantha Stephens, founder of the world’s first oatmeal bar, Oatmeals, in New York City was just announced as Quaker’s new Creative Oatmeal Officer!

I found Sam’s story interesting. While in college, she was trying to eat healthier and save money and she discovered oatmeal was the way to go and started eating it for every meal. Since opening OatMeals in Greenwich Village in New York City in 2012, Stephens has sold more than 100,000 of her inventive hot oatmeal bowls – including her signature Pumpkin Pie and Indian Spiced & Savory Truffle RisOATto – along with other oatmeal-based products like oatmeal cookies and biscotti. That’s a lot of oatmeal! I can’t wait to try it out the next time I am in NYC.

Sam is teaming up with Quaker  to show foodies everywhere that the possibilities are endless when creating recipes with oatmeal, such as the first exclusive recipe created by OatMeals for Quaker – Hearty Sweet Corn, Tomato and Pancetta Oatmeal.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Quaker steel cut oats
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups fresh corn (approximately 3 ears) or frozen, thawed
  • 1/2 cup pancetta, diced (bacon, prosciutto, or ham can be substituted)
  • 2 small shallots, diced (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Grated pecorino or asiago cheese

Directions

  • In a large saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. 
  • Add pancetta, corn, and cherry tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Remove this mixture from the pan and place in a bowl to the side. 
  • Into the same pan add the butter, shallots, and garlic and cook for two minutes at medium heat. Add Quaker steel cut oats and stir continuously for two to three minutes, until lightly toasted, golden, and fragrant. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. 
  • Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until oats are al dente. 
  • Add the pancetta, corn, and tomato mixture to the cooked oats and stir to combine. 
  • Season with black pepper to taste and top with grated pecorino cheese. 

Makes four servings. See a video of the recipe being made on Quaker’s YouTube channel.

(Disclosure: As stated above, this is a compensated post.)

Big Island Teriyaki Burger With Grilled Pineapple {Recipe}

Happy National Cheeseburger Day! This recipe features lean ground sirloin and a distinctive Hawaiian twist with homemade teriyaki sauce with grilled pineapple, scallions, ginger, honey, and sesame oil—a combination that really makes this burger unforgettable.

Cook Time30 min
Prep Time30 min
Yields4 serv.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 Peeled and cored pineapple, cut into wedges
  • 4 Scallions
  • 2 cups Baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Grated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon Sesame oil
  • 1 pound 95% lean ground sirloin
  • 2 ounces Link lean sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon Granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon Dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Allspice
  • 1 teaspoon Red pepper flakes
  • 2 Slices Canadian-style bacon, halved
  • 4 Hawaiian sweet or whole wheat hamburger buns, halved and toasted
  • 2 tablespoons Crumbled blue Cheese

DIRECTIONS

  • To make the grilled pineapple teriyaki, coat a grill pan with nonstick spray and place over medium-high
  • Heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill and get it very hot. Put the pineapple wedges on the hot grill and cook until the fruit is charred on all sides, turning with tongs, about 10 minutes total.
  • Remove the pineapple from the grill, chop into small pieces, and put into a mixing bowl.
  • Next, lay the scallions on the hot grill and char on both sides until softened slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove the scallions from the grill, chop, and add to the pineapple. Keep the grill hot; you’ll need it to cook the burgers.
  • To the pineapple mixture, add the spinach, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, and sesame oil. Toss well to evenly distribute the ingredients. Set aside to let the flavors meld.
  • To make the burgers, in a large mixing bowl combine the beef and the turkey sausage. Add the onion powder, oregano, cloves, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Mix gently by hand to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.
  • Gently form the meat mixture into four burgers. Spray the grill pan or grill with another coating of nonstick spray. Grill the burgers for 4 minutes per side for medium doneness. The burgers should turn easily without sticking. Remove the burgers to a clean side plate and hold warm.
  • Arrange the Canadian bacon slices on the grill and cook for 1 minute on each side, until they are scored with grill marks.
  • To assemble the burgers, lay the hamburger patty on the bottom bun and top with bacon and about . cup of the pineapple teriyaki. Finish with a sprinkle of blue cheese and top with the other half of the bun.

(Recipe and image courtesy of Recipe Rehab.)

Announcing Campbell’s Wisest Kid

I am so excited to finally be able to spill the beans about something I have been keeping under wraps since July! I have been chosen to work with Campbell’s Soup Company as a Brand Ambassador. I’ve enjoyed Campbell’s soups since I was a little girl and have fond memories of slurping up those noodles in their chicken noodle soup and dipping grilled cheese in their tomato soup so I think this is a perfect fit.

In July Campbell’s shared their newest campaign with a small group of bloggers which they said they’d be launching in September and I have kept it a secret until today. You’ll love this new campaign! Some of you might have seen the little teaser commercials from Campbell’s with an adorable little boy with a long beard called the “Wisest Kid in the Whole World”.  The Wisest Kid in the Whole World is a kid guru, the ultimate authority on what makes kids happy. He knows all the secrets to kid contentment, and is here to share with parents everywhere. He knows how much kids truly love Campbell’s — himself included.

Check out this video below to meet him:

 

Have a wisest kid of your own? Enter the wisest thing your child has said in the widget below to share it with Campbell’s.

 

Live in New York City? Campbell’s is hosting a special event on September 17 in Times Square from 12pm to 2pm EST. Here, people are able to interact with the campaign and meet the Wisest Kid as he live streams from a billboard. From home, you can tweet @TheWisestKid and/or use the hashtag (#AskWisestKid) to ask for the Wisest Kid’s advice or to share something funny your wisest kid says.

(Disclosure: I am being compensated by Campbell Soup Company as an Ambassador for the next 6 months. All thoughts are my own.)

Molten Cookies {Giveaway}

I love eating dessert. Sometimes at home I get cravings for brownies or chocolate chip cookies. The other day I was looking for something sweet to eat and I remembered that I had some cookie mixes from Krusteaz that I had been sent to try. Krusteazone of the country’s fastest growing baking lines is the perfect partner for baking up something creative and delicious this back to school season. A family-run business for more than 80 years, Krusteaz has a full line of delicious mixes made with premium ingredients and easy-to-bake instructions.

These weren’t just regular cookies….they were cookies with a molten chocolate center. Yum! I enlisted the boys to help me make them. Lucas ran to a drawer and pulled out the Toy Story cupcake wrappers that were left over from their Buzz Lightyear party. They helped me get the eggs and butter out and then helped make them.

They were pretty easy to make. We softened the butter so it was easier for the boys to mix the ingredients. They then enjoyed licking the spoons (don’t worry! I used safe eggs!) as I put the mix into the cupcake wrappers and stuck them in the oven.

These cookies were so delicious! Inside the moist cookie was creamy chocolate. It was like someone had mixed the gooey inside of a chocolate lava cake with a cookie.

Krusteaz makes a variety of other products. I think next I will be trying their Hawaiian Sweet Bread Mix!

GIVEAWAY:

One person will win Krusteaz’s line of Molten Cookie Mixes

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me which Krusteaz product you’d want to try first

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow me on Twitter

4) Follow Krusteaz on Twitter

5) Comment on another of my blog posts

Giveaway ends on October 2, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: I received products for review but thoughts are my own.)

Sara Lee Snack Cakes Giveaway

(Disclosure: I received a Sara Lee gift box.)

Sara Lee has come out with a new line of snack cakes. Sara Lee Snack Cakes are a collection of Individually Wrapped portioned and portable snacks that are baked fresh, to go. The line of Sara Lee Crème Filled Snack Cakes includes:

Devil’s Food Crème Cakes Scrumptious Devil’s Food Cake, topped with a heavenly layer of crème, surrounded by a rich, chocolaty coating.

Golden Fudge Cakes Moist golden cake, topped with mouth-watering fudge, all within a delicious chocolaty shell.

Chocolate Crème Cupcakes Divine chocolate cake, filled with sweet crème, iced with a delectable chocolate top and a white drizzle.

Golden Crème Cakes Simply irresistible golden cake, complimented with just the right touch of crème.

Buttery Sunshine Cakes Light and buttery golden cake baked to perfection.

Crumb Cakes Moist golden cake covered with a sweet crumb topping.

Cheese Topped Crumb Cakes Silky golden cake topped with a ribbon of rich cheese and sprinkled with a sweet crumb topping.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win two boxes of Sara Lee Snack Cakes

HOW TO ENTER:

Leave a comment telling me which one you’d try first

FOR AN EXTRA ENTRY:

Share this giveaway on a social network and leave the link in the comments

Giveaway ends September 17, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

Sneaking Whole Grains Into Fruit Filled Jamba Juice Smoothies {Giveaway}

About a month ago I shared how Quaker fuels my family and is a great way to start the day. I recently learned that Jamba Juice now offers Quaker-branded whole grain boosts in their smoothies so people who drink their smoothies can get a boost of whole grains throughout the day. One Quaker-boost in a delicious, whole fruit smoothie offers one full serving of whole grains and only costs an extra 50 cents. I was intrigued so I headed to Jamba Juice today to try one with a gift card that Jamba Juice sent me.

I had only been to Jamba Juice once before so I asked the cashier which flavors were the most popular. He said the Mango one was good and people really liked the Tropical one (Caribbean Passion), too. I’m more of a berry person but I decided to go with his recommendation and try a tropical smoothie with the Quaker boost.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with a boost of Quaker whole grains in the smoothie. I was thinking maybe it would have a texture of drinkable oatmeal and I didn’t think that sounded too appetizing mixed with the fruit.

To my delight I took a sip and discovered that it tasted like sherbert mixed with a glass of orange juice. The texture was thick and had a consistency somewhere between a milkshake and frozen yogurt. If I hadn’t ordered it myself I would have never guessed that it had the whole grains in it.

Overall, I really enjoyed my Jamba Juice smoothie and look forward to going back with my kids. The boys would think I took them out for dessert not knowing that they were getting fruit and whole grains in their “treat”. I think the boosts that Jamba Juice offers are perfect for those who want to be healthy but want to eat healthy items that taste good at the same time.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a $20 Jamba Juice Gift Card

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me which smoothie you’d pick

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow me on Twitter

4) Follow Jamba Juice on Twitter

5) Follow Quaker on Twitter

6) Comment on another post on this blog

7) Subscribe to this blog (look in upper right hand corner)

Giveaway ends September 17, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: As stated above, I received a Jamba Juice gift card to try out their smoothies with Quaker boosts. All opinions are my own.)

10 Peach Recipes

Fresh fruit is one of my favorite things about Summer. Sadly, when I go to the grocery store for fruit I don’t find fruit that lasts very long. When I read an email asking me if I wanted to review fresh peaches from The Fruit Company I started thinking of all the delicious desserts I could make and searched Pinterest for ideas.

Here are some delicious peach recipes I found:

Once I received the box of peaches from The Fruit company I opened it and found six HUGE peaches. Each peach was more than double the size of what I find in my local grocery store. I read more about the peaches and learned that each peach is hand-picked from an orchard located in Hood River, Oregon. Each order comes in a pretty watercolor gift box.

 The peaches were really juicy and very sweet. We decided to make the peach crisp linked up above with three of the peaches. I chose it because it was easy, fairly quick to make, and I had all of the ingredients on hand. It was delicious but I definitely would recommend peeling the peaches first.

The Fruit Company will have peaches for sale on their website until the 3rd or 4th week of September so you can enjoy peach recipes for the next month or so. You can find the Oregon peaches here. They make great gifts for family and friends, too!

(Disclosure: As stated above, I received a box of peaches from The Fruit Company. All thoughts are my own.)

5 Meal Planning Tips For Busy Parents

Prep Ahead:  Organize your grocery list for each recipe that you intend to prepare. Prepare ingredients earlier in the day, or while you are prepping dinner the night before.  Wrap chopped herbs or aromatics, like garlic and ginger, in damp paper towel in airtight container, and refrigerate.  Then, go straight to cook mode come dinnertime.

Freeze It: So many recipes freeze well and defrost in minutes, providing fast and flavorful dinner solutions.  Soup is a favorite because it can make a meal all on its own.

Opt for Seafood: Fish or shrimp cook quickly and have unique health benefits compared to chicken or red meat.  Don’t be intimidated by making fish at home.

Hide Veggies: Kid’s might not dig into a big pile of broccoli, but you can put broccoli or other veggies into a delicious recipe and they’ll never realize how much healthy stuff they are eating too.

Keep It Interesting: It’s easy to get into a dinnertime rut, making the same 5 or 6 relied upon recipes over and over again.  Keep kids coming to the table by surprising them with new recipes.

Thanks to Cooking Planit for sharing these tips with me. Cooking Planit is a website and mobile app that provides home cooks with step-by-step instructions to create full meals, organizing the process for a more efficient cooking experience that leaves all dishes ready to serve at the same time.

9 Ways To Make Over Mac & Cheese Cups

I loved Mac & Cheese cups in college and when I lived on my own. Even now they make a quick dinner for the boys when we get home late or have somewhere to be and I realize I need to get dinner ready asap. Target shared this great post with me about 9 ways to make over mac & cheese cups. Seriously, where were these ideas ten years ago?!

Find all of the mac & cheese add in ideas on the Target blog.

How to Throw a Home Canning Party‏

Summer’s last juicy pickings are still available and fall’s hearty harvest is on the horizon. Stumped about what to do with all this abundant produce?

Thanks to Country Woman magazine, you can now celebrate this bounty and enjoy it year-round by throwing your own Home Canning Party! Preserving is all the rage today and it’s something that you can do in the comfort of your own home. So go beyond that same-old cocktail soiree, grab some good friends and follow this simple advice:

  • Pick out your produce and canning recipes. When you combine prep work and processing time, a canning recipe can take an hour or more to complete. Limit your party to three canning recipes. Plan to make a full batch, but don’t double it. Altering a recipe’s quantities and times may affect the quality and safety of the final product.
  • Gather your tools. Have these basics on hand (or assign guests to bring them): jars, lids and rings; heavy-bottomed cooking pots; a roomy stockpot to use as a water-bath canner; sharp knives and a grater; stirring spoons and ladles; measuring cups and spoons; jar grabbers; a funnel; clean towels; and hot pads.
  • Send invitations. Mail invitations to guests about three weeks ahead. Include how much and what type of produce, other ingredients or canning supplies to bring. Also tuck in the recipes you’ll use as a preview.
  • Plan some snacks. Give home canning party guests something to nibble and sip. Incorporate fruits you’ll be using into beverages, and pick up breads, meats and cheeses to serve.
  • Set up stations. Clear off counters and tabletops to make ample room for work stations to sanitize equipment, prep produce, fill jars and seal, boil and cool your finished batch. Assign guests to each station and have only one canning recipe going at a time.
  • Jam out! Karaoke with your canning? Sure! Stir some of these tunes into a party playlist: Cherry, Cherry (Neil Diamond), Blueberry Hill (Chubby Checker), I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye) and Strawberry Fields Forever (The Beatles).
  • Label your labors. “Mystery jars” collect dust in the pantry, so clearly label your goods with contents and canning date. With printed labels, pens, decorative ribbons and fabric on hand, guests can create personalized wrappings for cooled jars.

For more on how to plan your next home canning get-together, visit Country Woman Magazine.

(Disclosure: Post and text-free image courtesy of Country Woman magazine. I was not compensating for posting this but I am sharing because I loved the idea.)

Quick Breakfast To Go: Banana Cinnamon Waffles {Recipe}

Photo credit: Patrick Onofre

Excerpted from Kitchenability 101: The College Student’s Guide to Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Food by Nisa Burns. Makes one serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole-grain toaster waffles
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter (or Nutella)
  • ½ banana
  • 1 tsp honey (or agave nectar)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Toast the waffles to desired crispness.
  • Spread the peanut butter on one side of each waffle.
  • Slice the banana into ¼ inch rounds.
  • Place the banana and honey on one side of the waffle, and sprinkle with the cinnamon.
  • Close like a sandwich and enjoy.