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Trying it Tuesday: Winter Book Swap

February 5, 2013
book exchange

It’s winter time! Even though February is here, there are still several months of winter weather left. I’m usually sooo over winter by December 26th. This winter has been even harder because of inversions that bring frigid temperatures and smog, cold weather and icy rain and snow storms.

winter book exchangeSo this winter we decided to have a book swap with some of the ladies in our neighborhood. Each person brought a book they wanted to share with someone else. When other ladies found the book they wanted, they brought their new read home in a cute paper bag filled with a water bottle, bookmark, and cookies. (Everyone needs a yummy treat in my opinion while reading).

For the water bottles we bought a 48 pack of 20 oz bottles from Costco, then tied them with cut out paper from a real book and twine. The handmade bookmarks were made with cardstock and scrapbook paper and tied with twine. The cookies were the Neiman Marcus $250 chocolate chip cookie recipe from earlier this year.

Here are some other great book swap ideas from around the web:

book swap ideas

Related Links:

Check out slips

Book Swap Flyer

Milk Bottle Book Swap Favors

Cute Decorating Ideas for A Kids Book Swap

Book Wrapping Ideas

Party Food–Brownies!


Superbowl Recipes

February 1, 2013

This Superbowl is a toss up for us. My young son puts it best:

“I love, love, looooooooove the 49ers, but the Ravens are like, awesome too. I can’t decide who to choose Mom!”

Well son, this is a hard one for us too, but I’m leaning towards 49ers. And the rest of the family is leaning that way too. And for his sake, I’m trying to locate a hat that has both teams on it since he can’t decide.

While he tries to figure out who his vote will be cast for, you can figure out your Superbowl menu along with me. With the cold going around the house I’ve waited until the last minute to decide our menu. But a few of these will make the list:

superbowl recipes

Superbowl Recipes,


Five Can Queso Dip

Smoked Gouda and Pork Tacos

Superbowl Nachos


Pomegranate Cranberry Lime Spritzer  


Applebee’s Maple Butter Blondies

Healthy Texas Sheet Cake

Lightened Up Lofthouse Cookies

Neiman Marcus $250 Chocolate Chip Cookie

 Main Dish

Just Like Costco Chicken Bake

Lo Carb Cauliflower Pizza Crust with CPK Pear Gorgonzola Pizza

Meatball Hero Subs

Stuffed Gouda and Bacon Pork Chops

Side Dishes

Grilled Cinnamon Apples

Five Can Queso {Makeover}

January 31, 2013
five can queso

The Superbowl is just around the corner and our family is excited. We used to have large Superbowl parties when we were first married but then our friends and I had too many kids and the house just became smaller and smaller feeling each year as kids crawled over us as we tried to watch.

This year it’s a toss up as to who we want to win. I think we’re all leaning towards the 49ers, but my son and daughter love Michael Oher from the Blind Side so the Ravens  are on their list too.

five can queso

When I first got married, you all know by now that I couldn’t cook. It was pretty scary and our takeout and grocery bill was pretty insane. First because I tried to cook and then we just opted for takeout after a horrible attempt was made to try to recreate a meal I saw in a cookbook. Our grocery bill back then rivaled the one that we have now with three kids and two dogs to pay for.

One of the first recipes that I was introduced to was called “Five Can Casserole.” My mother in law made it all the time while my husband was growing up and it became one of his favorites.

The meat mixture has become one of our favorites, and we’ve turned it into an incredibly easy queso dip.

If you do an internet search though, “Five Can Casserole” recipes actually come up with tuna and chicken ingredients. The one that we enjoy has beef, creamed soups, enchilada sauce and salsa. It’s then made into a casserole with the use of corn tortillas.


While this might not be considered the healthiest of recipes to some with the use of canned food, we also understand that it’s hard to cook organic from scratch every night. This meal is a healthier game time alternative and a meal that we make on occasion when time is short. Often I have already made up the beef and have it frozen so I can quickly thaw it and add the ingredients.


You won’t be disappointed. It’s a hearty meal that is delicious for you. Grab your chips and queso and sit down, it’s Superbowl time!

Five Can Queso {Makeover}

1 lb lean ground beef or bison (you could substitute chicken or turkey too).

1 14.5 oz can cream of chicken soup (I used Health Valley organic)

1 14.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup (I used Health Valley organic)

1 10 oz can mild enchilada sauce

1 4.5 oz can mild diced green chiles

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used Cabot 1%)

1 cup salsa

Turn on stove to medium heat. In a large sauce pan, pour approximately one tablespoon of olive oil. Place the meat in the pan and with a spatula break up the meat as much as you can into little pieces. Cook on the stove, stirring meat frequently until meat is browned and no pink remains. To check for doneness, break open some of the larger pieces of meat and check for any signs of pink. Remove meat from the stove and drain meat and fat in a colander. Rinse for one minute with hot water.

Once water has drained from the meat, pour the meat back into the saucepan. Set the heat to low medium and pour the soups, green chiles, enchilada sauce, black beans, shredded cheese and salsa into the saucepan and heat until warm and cheese melts, stirring occasinally. If sauce looks too thin, add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken. Pour queso into serving bowls and serve with chips.

Optional Cooking Directions: After meat has been browned and drained, pour meat, soups, enchilada sauce, green chiles, black beans, cheese and salsa into a crockpot and heat on high for one hour or low for 1-2 hours until cheese has been melted. Stir once or twice during cooking to incorporate the cheese.

Trying it Tuesday: Do It Yourself Chili Powder

January 30, 2013
chili powder

How ironic is it that as I walk out of the room with her sister and as I round the corner she looks at me with a look of “uh oh” and  sits down as quickly as she can.


“I was just watching Just Dance 4 Mom” she says in her raspy voice. Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl” is on the screen and she has little beads of sweat on her forehead.

After three days in bed, she is finally looking like she is feeling better. She is up and moving. Every cough, every pained look on her face, her flushed cheeks and blood shot eyes for the past three days just made me want to hold her and take away her pain–but only time could do that.

As your kids get older you feel that they try to exert so much independence and try to distance themselves from you. Getting sick is often a great way to know that they still need and want you. They don’t complain when you rub their back or brush the hair out of their eyes or stroke their forehead and head.

I love these moments and will never allow myself to forget them.

I have to admit that I never knew that you could actually make chili powder until I ran out. Kind of like when I ran out of ibuprofen that one time and had three miserable angry, crying kids I dragged through the store. They were not happy with me. At all. And I ended up buying way more than I wanted to.

Back to the chili powder. I actually ran out one day and needed it for a recipe. Flipping through a magazine I ran across a recipe for chili powder.

Chili Powder Recipe

Chili powder is actually very different from chile powder. Chile powder is made up of pure ground chile peppers while chili powder is actually a mixture of ground chiles and other spices. There are a lot of chili powder substitutes on the internet, but we love using this one because of the simplistic ingredients that can be found in any cupboard when you are in a pinch.

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp cumin

1-2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp ground ancho chile powder or 1 tsp paprika

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, then store in an airtight container. We always have a few extra spice bottles on hand.





Pork Chop with Apple Garnish Sauce

January 28, 2013

I’m feeling a little under the weather today after spending an entire weekend taking care of sick kids. I’m excited that my husband is back in town after three weeks away. It always nice to not be feeling so good and have someone there to help. This post was written quite a long time ago–back in fall. I wrote it on a rare quiet morning. The recipe will be just as delicious today as it was when I made it back then. Enjoy!It’s unusually quiet this morning in my house. The baby is spending the day at Grandma’s house and the kids are off to school. It’s just me and the dog. Or the dog and I. Something like that.

I haven’t been alone in three months. It’s bizarre to be typing and not have to stop to pull up someone’s hair in a ponytail, make breakfast for the kids or iron a shirt for my husband. The dog is loving it. She sits quietly at my feet until I move or shift positions and then she is up like the crack of a whip and wagging her tail. I think she is bored too. Or just wants to go on a w-a-l-k. I’m glad that dogs can’t spell.

In the backyard sits a lone apple tree. Our only fruit tree. This time of year it is overflowing with apples. I make applesauce, apple butter, crisps, cookies, bread, and even freeze sliced apples.

And now I bring you pork.

I don’t know why I always picture Wilbur when I say “pork” but I do and then I can’t eat it. My family seems to have no problem with it.

This pork recipe is perfect for slapping on the grill and making it up if you are still in an area that will be hot for the next several months, or you can bake it in on the stove or in the oven. Whichever you prefer. The apple garnish is perfect with it!

Pork Chop with Apple Garnish Sauce

* You will want to begin by heating up your garnish so it is ready when the pork chops are.

4 boneless pork chops

1-2 tbsp olive oil

To cook pork chops:

Heat a pan over medium heat. Pour 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in the pan. Place the pork chops and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and place on plate. Top with garnish.

Apple Garnish Sauce:

1 cup finely chopped apples (or applesauce)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup water or broth

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp pepper

In a saucepan, heat mixture on low-medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and spoon several tablespoons over each pork chop.

Funfetti Baked Glazed Doughnuts {Makeover}

January 25, 2013

Our daughter has been dying to learn how to cook, but with my history of cooking I am a little wary of her enjoying free reign of the oven.

One of our favorite recipes that we make over and over and over are these Double Glazed Funfetti Donuts from Cookies and Cups. They are so good!
P1010648Since we make a lot from scratch and not from mixes I came across this homemade mix that has  a lot better ingredients than the boxed mixes. And if you don’t have a doughnut cooker, don’t worry! We used to make these all the time with a mini muffin pan. We call them…doughnut holes. Brilliant!

Funfetti Baked Glazed Doughnuts {Makeover}

3 cups cake flour (To Make Your Own Cake Flour: Use 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour. Take out six tablespoons of the flour out and add in six tablespoons of cornstarch).

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup rainbow jimmies

In a large bowl, mix together the ingredients above until well combined. Place in a large plastic ziploc bag to store.

For Cake:

Pour the entire cake mix into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 egg whites, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 4 tablespoons softened butter, and 8 tablespoons shortening. Mix until the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly. Add in one cup milk and mix for thirty seconds to a minute until combined. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch pan and cook at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

For Doughnuts:

2 3/4 cups homemade Funfetti cake mix

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbsp melted butter

Mix together all ingredients just until combined. Fill greased mini muffin pan or mini doughnut pan approximately 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

If using a doughnut maker, bake doughnuts according to manufacturers directions.

Remove doughnuts from pan and allow to cool for several minutes before glazing.

Doughnut Glaze

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan, heat glaze ingredients on low heat until mixture becomes warm. While mixture is warming, place a cooling rack close to where you will be working, and place wax paper or tin foil underneath to catch the excess glaze.  Dip each doughnut into the glaze, flipping to cover both sides. Lift the doughnut hole or doughnut out of the glaze and allow excess to drip off into the saucepan before transferring the doughnut to the cooling rack. Immediately roll mini muffins in jimmie sprinkles to cover completely, or dip the tops of the mini doughnut holes in jimmies.

Related Links:

Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes by 52 Kitchen Adventures

Pumpkin Spiced Glazed Donut Holes by Burnt Apple

Babycakes Doughnut Maker by Babycakes


White Chocolate Pomegranate Bread

January 23, 2013
pomegranate white chocolate bread

I didn’t get those smiley, happy family Christmas cards out this year. You know, the ones where you suck in your gut as the photographer tells you to smile in an attempt to regain those ten pounds the camera mockingly gives you.  Now, I even have to worry about HOW much I smile. I don’t want those crow feet showing too much.

pomegranate white chocolate

Our toddler showed her true emotions during our picture taking session. Every picture she glared at the photographer. He tried squeaky ducks, monkeys, rattles, lights and jumping up and down waving his arms like a clown. Only glares were returned. I hate to say it, but I feel exactly like her during picture time. I know I’ll be grateful we have those precious family pictures years from now, but I’m not one who loves being photographed.


With the holidays come and gone and Christmas cards that never got sent I decided to take a different approach on the whole “holiday card” thing. I call it–the winter card.  Now I have the flexibility in my mind of sending out holiday cards anytime between the end of November and end of February. I really love how my brain works sometimes.

I also might  not have made it in time to post this recipe before the holidays but really pomegranates are more of a winter fruit giving me until the end of February (note the WINTER decor) to post this too.snickersThis bread is absolutely gorgeous to give (and eat). The pomegranates offer a unique twist to the melt in your mouth white chocolate.

I made these gorgeous white chocolate snowflakes to top each loaf of bread after seeing them made on a cake by Barbara Bakes. I’m still tempted to try the cake too but am trying to be good.

White Chocolate Pomegranate Bread

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup milk

1/4 cup melted butter (I substituted plain greek yogurt)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pomegranate arils

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease one large loaf pan or two mini loaf pans. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, stir together the milk, butter (or yogurt), eggs and vanilla extract. Beat by hand for approximately one minute until the mixture becomes frothy. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Fold in the pomegranate arils and white chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan(s). Press additional pomegranate arils onto the top of the loaf if desired. Bake large loaf for approximately 50-55 minutes, small loaves for approximately 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove loaves from oven, allow to cool in pan for approximately ten minutes before inverting the loaf onto cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

Once bread has finished cooling, glaze.

To glaze: Melt 1/2 cup white chocolate chips with 1 tbsp milk. Stir to combine until smooth, then drizzle over the top of the loaf.

Related Links:

Lemon Pomegranate Bread by 2 Peas in a Blog

Apple Pomegranate Spice Bread by Streaming Gourmet

Pomegranate Banana Bread by Family Spice

Orange Pomegranate Bread by Cuisine by Maureen