March 31, 2014

Homemade French Toast

There are certain behaviors and topics that get me overly excited or irritated. Respect or lack there of is a big one with me. Normally I can ignore most things, but last weekend my family and I went shopping in the capital city of our state. I don't know if everyone in the particular store had woken up on the wrong side of the bed or what, but everyone was rude. One women went so far as to push me in the checkout line and then rudely tell my oldest son 'excuse me'. This is a store which is a national chain and we shop at the location near our house frequently. At the location near us people are always friendly, but not this location. And I'm sorry to say it hasn't been just one time, it's every single time we shop at this location. I think people in this store location have had a little too much caffeine or lack thereof. It's funny how geography can make personalities completely different. By the time I leave the store I seem to be far less friendly and a lot more angry.

When I get stressed, or angry, or just because, I tend to make breakfast foods. I love breakfast foods, there is something so comforting about eating a big plate of waffles or pancakes. Last week I tried a new recipe for French Toast from the Food Network.

This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I only changed a few details from the original recipe. First, I used homemade challah bread (leftover from my giveaway). Second, I served the French toast with butter, not maple syrup. My youngest refuses to eat maple syrup, so I used butter and powdered sugar instead. Finally, I increase the amount of vanilla to a teaspoon and added a slight bit more of nutmeg.

This French toast turned out really well. It browned beautifully on the griddle and my youngest loved it so much that he ate 4 pieces as soon as it was done. I froze the leftovers and they re-heated well in the microwave (or you can use a toaster oven) for a quick weekday breakfast. This recipe would also work well for a brunch party or a holiday since it looks so nice on the plate and you could make big batches at once and keep them warm in the oven.

For the recipe go to French Toast.

March 29, 2014

Tribes-A-Dozen Voila! Hallah Review and #Giveaway

Disclaimer: I received products in order to facilitate this review. As always all opinions expressed are solely my own.

My kids are a little obsessed with bread. They would eat it all day long and not much else if given the chance. Most of the time I bake my bread from scratch, but I also am realistic that during the week sometimes using a package is a must. I have tried a number of packaged bread mixes over the years, some have been great and others not so much. Recently I was given the opportunity to try Tribes-A-Dozen breads in my home kitchen. 

Tribes-A-Dozen manufactures a unique kosher (OU) line of three Voilà! Hallah Egg Bread Mixes -- Simply Spelt, Traditional, and Wholey Wheat. Tribes-A-Dozen is about wholesome, all natural, kosher hallah (or challah bread) – the classic egg bread – also referred to as barches, brioche, kalács, osterbrot, or, simply, twisted bread. Each package contains a yeast packet and the bread mix. It's easy to add the eggs, oil and other ingredients and have homemade bread in less than 2 hours.

I tried each of the three mixes available. I made a traditional braided bread, rolls and French toast. They all came out well, especially the braided loaf and french toast. The mixes had easy to follow instructions and had short rise times. My youngest loved the braided loaf, he claimed it was his new favorite bread. 

The above photo is of the rolls made with the traditional mix. 

I made the French toast pictured above using the whole wheat mix. It absorbed the egg mixture very well and made a great thick crusted French toast for breakfast. 

Now for the fun part. Right now you can enjoy the same three mixes that I tried by entering the rafflecopter form below. Good luck! Continental U.S. entrants only, previous winners of Tribes-A-Dozen giveaways are ineligible.

For more information go to the following links: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 28, 2014

Fresh Express #saladswap

#spon Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms MeetSM program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms MeetSM blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC. or the manufacturer of the product.

My husband has a weird salad habit. He will stand in front of the fridge and eat a handful of spinach or arugula. No dressing, nothing but the greens. I thought he was alone in his habit until I caught my youngest son doing the same thing this week. While the habit is a little strange, I love that my family enjoys eating greens and salad. I try to encourage their salad eating as much as I can so I was excited when I was given the chance to try and review Fresh Express salads through Moms Meet. 

Fresh Express salads are thoroughly washed, rinsed, and gently dried, then sealed in patented “Keep-Crisp®” breathable bags to keep their just- picked freshness, without preservatives. They range in price from 2-4 dollars and can be found at Target stores nationwide. Right now Fresh Express is encouraging people to sign up and swap high calorie foods for lower calorie salad options.  Sign up at to find delicious recipe ideas and download the app to explore the wide variety of practical and helpful features. The site has a variety of recipes in addition to coupons to save money off your salad purchases. 

So what did I think of the salad? My local Target only had a few varieties, spinach and spring greens. I tried both. The spring greens I used as a salad. It was delicious with homemade salad and stayed fresh in the fridge easily. For the spinach I decided to make a smoothie. Here is my recipe: 

  • One frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter/almond butter
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup of spinach
Add all the ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. 

My youngest loved the smoothie. I was worried that he would be put off by the green color, but it turned out he thought it looked like something a superhero would drink, so win for me! I thought the salads stayed fresh and worked well for my family's needs. The only thing I would change would have them more readily available in my area. The closest Target with food to us is an hour away, which is a ways to go for salad. I hope that in the future Fresh Express will expand into other grocery chains. 

For more information go to the following websites: 

March 26, 2014

Quick Shepherd's Pie

I need to add more hours to the day. It seems that I only am able to get half of the things on my to do list done everyday and by the end of the week my list seems to just get longer and longer. I thought that as my kids got older things would be easier, I was wrong. Now I have more dishes, laundry and general mess than I ever did when they were younger. Most days I fall onto the couch exhausted at the end of the day and almost fall asleep watching tv. Weekends are almost worse. With my husband home there are even more cups and bowls to wash and another person to clean up after. My family goes through more cereal bowls that I would ever think humanly possible. Weekdays are easier in many ways since my husband and oldest leave for part of the day. However, my youngest seems to make the mess of three people.

Since I have been short on time the last couple of months I have been looking for recipes that are easy to put together and cook. Last week I tried a new recipe for Quick Shepherd's Pie from the March/April issue of Eating Well Magazine.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes 35 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 4 servings. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used baby Yukon Gold potatoes. I find the baby potatoes easier to work with in soups and stews since they can just be cut into fourths. There is only one kind of lamb available in our area, so that is what I bought. Since it was higher in fat I drained the lamb after it was browned and added it back into the pan. I prefer the flavor of higher fat meats, but not the grease so the modification enabled the flavor without the greasiness. Finally, I did not thaw my corn. I threw the corn in still frozen and just upped the total cooking time at the end. Honestly, I hate thawing frozen veggies and rarely do it.

My family really enjoyed this recipe. It is very easy to prep and put together so it's perfect for a busy weeknight meal. Lamb is one of my favorite proteins. A little amount adds great flavor to dishes, I love it. This recipe is also nice since it has 25 grams of protein, which with two growing boys is always something that I look for.

For the recipe go to Quick Shepherd's Pie. 

March 22, 2014

Gouda and Spinach Stuffed Pork Chops

I am a very impatient person. So much so that I am horrible about waiting to talk while having a conversation. I also have a tendency to watch a season of a show and then skip to the final episode (I blame Netflix and Hulu for this) or read the majority of a book and then skip a few pages (or 10) to get to the end faster. Part of the problem seems to be that my attention is less as I get older and partly that a lot of books and television just don't seem to be that great. I know that sounds harsh, but great books. movies etc. still can hold my interest, they just are very few and far between. I guess as I get older quality has become much more important and I don't have the patience to deal with okay or mediocre.  Life is too short to spend a lot of time on something that isn't great.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. It takes 1 hour and 10 minutes of total time, 25 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I did make a number of changes to the original recipe. First, since I eat gluten free I used  gluten free panko. I used a block of Gouda which I sliced into thin slices myself. As suggested by the magazine I used a rimmed baking sheet and increased the amount of horseradish mustard. Finally, I used bone-in chops and my total cooking time as 25 minutes.

Make sure to pick fatty pork chops and spray the top of the chops with canola oil. This allows the chops to have a great crispy outside and tender inside. My family really enjoyed these chops. If you aren't a fan of Gouda other types of cheese would also work, especially sharp cheddar. The same thing goes for the Creole seasoning, if you don't like the heat you could use any other type of seasoning salt and it would work just as well.

For the recipe go to Gouda and Spinach Stuffed Pork Chops.

March 19, 2014

Showing My Disney Side with Breakfast!

#Sponsored Disclaimer: I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed are solely my own. 

My two kids are very different. They have different tastes, love different television shows, toys, you name it. They will spend hours disagreeing about what movie character is best, with neither of them winning the argument. My youngest is the huge Disney fan in the house, he loves the older Disney movies. Since so many of them are now available streaming he can pick and chose his favorite movies whenever he wants. Given my son's love of Disney I was excited to be given the opportunity to host a Disney Side @Home Celebration.

Anyone reading this probably already knows that I love food. I really love food. So any party at my house centers around food and lots of it. Kids parties can be a little boring so I decided to switch things up by having a breakfast party using some of the great recipes available on the Disney Side website.

The party pack I received included:

  • Disney napkins, cups, balloons, a tablecloth and a banner
  • Disney tattoos and stickers
  • Disney Bingo, trivia, and face painting kits
  • HP photo card packs
  • Disney vacation planning DVDs
  • Disney cookie cutters and cupcake wrappers
  • 6 pack of Craisins Dried Cranberries and coupons
  • American Tourister Luggage
  • Measuring cups and recipe cards from ABC's The Chew

My kids absolutely love breakfast foods. Given their love of all things breakfast I decided that breakfast foods would be the perfect fit with a Disney party. I used two recipes from the site and a few recipes of my own. The two recipes I used from the site were the Cinderella's Dreamy Pumpkin Waffles and Biddidi  Bobbidi Boo Berry Smoothies. 

The smoothies were delicious with frozen strawberries, but would also work with blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries. 

For the wafflesI changed the recipe to be gluten free by using gluten free all purpose flour. I also added additional canned pumpkin (the entire can). They were delicious, light and fluffy, yum! 

The kids had a blast watching old Disney movies while enjoying the Disney food recipes, tattoos and stickers. My youngest son made a whole shoebox diorama with the stickers, it was pretty cute! 

Here are the links to the recipes I used: Waffles and Smoothie. 

For other great recipes and Disney activities go to the following links: 

March 16, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Tostadas

I am so sick of school fundraisers. That sounds horrible I know, but also very true. It all came to a head last week with a fundraiser not benefiting the school. I won't go in to details, but since I decided that I didn't want to have my son raise money he was not allowed to enjoy the popsicles and apple juice that all the other kids received for participating. I could have done the fundraising, but I chose not to. It was the 4th fundraiser since the beginning of the school year. During the first fundraiser my son raised 1200 dollars. I feel that that should be more than enough as my contribution for fundraising for the year. Apparently not though, they have had 3 more. Maybe I am getting old, but when I was growing up we had one fundraiser a year. One, nothing more. I understand that times have changed, things cost more money etc. However, I would rather donate supplies that I bought at 90 percent off at Target than donate to 4 fundraisers in 8 months. I joked with my husband that I am going to run for PTO next year with the slogan work smarter not harder. Obviously that won't happen, I'm way too much of a perfectionist to deal with all the fundraising drama. In the meantime I bought my son a whole box of popsicles for the dollar that he would have had to raise to enjoy the one at school.

 I try to incorporate at least one vegetarian or vegan meal into my meal plan every week. If left to their own devices my family would only eat meat (mostly bacon) three times a day. I prefer a more varied diet and have slowly converted them to my thinking. My husband has even started drinking the banana tofu smoothie I blogged about recently for breakfast every morning. Major progress. Last week I tried a new recipe for Spaghetti Squash Tostadas from the March 2014 issue of the Food Network Magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It takes 40 minutes of total time, 25 minutes of which is active and makes 4 servings. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used homemade beans instead of canned. I prefer homemade beans, they are cheaper and far lower in sodium than store bought. Secondly, my microwave wasn't large enough to fit the spaghetti squash in so I roasted it in the oven instead. It was easy since it could roast the squash while the tomatoes and onions were in the oven. Finally, I make my own chili powder. The flavor is better and it stores for 3-6 months, so it saves money.

With 440 calories and 11 grams of protein these tostadas were a nice vegetarian meal option for my family. My husband absolutely loved the spaghetti squash and ate the leftovers without the tostada shell for breakfast the next morning. Like most kids my sons were thrilled with the spaghetti squash, it's very kid friendly. To cut down on the heat for their servings, I tossed sour cream with the squash on their plate.

For the recipe go to Spaghetti Squash Tostadas. 

March 14, 2014

Sausage, Cheese and Grits Mini Quiches Using Jimmy Dean Sausage Crumbles

#spon: I'm required to disclose a relationship between this site and Jimmy Dean. This could include Jimmy Dean providing me w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

My two boys eat a ton of food, especially my youngest. As soon as he is full, he is hungry again. Since my kids eat so much I make sure that I have my house stocked full of ingredients to throw together recipes quickly. While I make most dishes and recipes from scratch I do use a few shortcuts to save time, especially during the work week. Recently I was given the chance to try Jimmy Dean Sausage Crumbles and use them in a recipe.

I toyed around with a number of recipes and decided that I love food that can be made in a muffin pan and eaten on the go. I decided to utilize the Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage Crumbles since they are lower in fat and my family loves turkey sausage. Here is the recipe I came up with:

Sausage, Cheese and Grit Mini Quiches
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1 cup grits (or polenta)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 package Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage Crumbles (approximately 9.6 ounces)
  • sliced buffalo Monterey jack cheese (or cheese of your choice)
Boil the chicken stock in a pan on the stove.  Once it boils add the grits, lower the heat to simmer, cover, and cook 12-15 minutes until thickened. Meanwhile brown the sausage crumbles. They are fully cooked, but the browning helps with the flavor in the mini quiches. Beat the eggs and slowly add to the grits along with the salt. Add the Asiago cheese and sausage crumbles. Grease a muffin pan and add the mixture (should make about 10 muffins). Top each quiche with torn up Monterey jack cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. These quiches are best right after baking, but can be enjoyed later by re-heating in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. If you are serving these at a party or holiday (and are not concerned about fat content), the chicken stock can be replaced with half and half or heavy whipping cream. The flavor would be richer from the increase in fat. 

That's it, easy and a great breakfast for weekdays. Have you tried Jimmy Dean Sausage Crumbles? 

March 9, 2014

Curried Chicken Chowder

I am so ready for spring to start next week. While I don't mind winter, this winter has been colder and had far more snow than we normally receive. Even my kids are sick of the snow and complained when my oldest was out of school for snow days twice last week. I think everyone in my house is ready for a little bit of warmer weather and sunshine. Granted we will start complaining about the heat and humidity in the summer (I hate humidity), but for now the 60 degree weather we had yesterday was perfect. Spring also gets me excited about gardening, which I love. It's a great way for me to relax and I love eating all the vegetables and fruit I am able to grow in our backyard. So I am impatiently waiting for the nights to get warm so I can start my planting.

Since our weather was cold last week I made a number of soups and stews. One of the new recipes I tried was for Curried Chicken Chowder from the November 2013 issue of Southern Living Magazine.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It takes 1 hour of total time, 40 minutes of which is active, and makes 16 cups. I made a few changes to the original recipe. First, I used frozen corn. Fresh corn is hard to find in the winter and frozen is much cheaper. I added the corn frozen and it worked well. For the coconut milk I used light coconut milk and added a tablespoon of corn starch mixed with water to the chowder as a thickener to make up for the fat. Finally, I used homemade chicken broth. The taste is better and it is far cheaper than store bought.

If you are looking to feed a crowd this is a great recipe. It made enough for three meals for my family. I served the chowder with naan bread for the rest of my family, which worked well flavor wise. The edamame is a great way to add protein and add a little bit of crunch to the chowder. Plus using chicken left from another recipe is a great way to save money.

For the recipe go to Curried Chicken Chowder. 

March 8, 2014

Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Television seemed more exciting to me when I was younger. The same goes for movies, I used to love going to see new movies every Friday evening in my twenties. I would get addicted to television shows and be excited for the next weeks episode. Now in my middle thirties television and movies just don't seem to hold the same appeal. A big part of the change might have to do with the Internet and the way that I watch movies and television. My family dropped cable years ago, we now rely on Netflix and Hulu. It's cheaper and we don't miss having all pointless channels that have nothing to watch on them. However, I also seem to not enjoy television the way that I used to. I get bored halfway through a lot of episodes and more than a couple of seasons of any show is just a little too much. There are exceptions, there are some shows that I have watched for years, but they are the exception not the norm. Maybe my expectations for television and movies have gotten higher the older I get. I have far less time to waste hours watching a movie that I hate. Maybe I just haven't watched anything great lately. Whatever the reason I have preferred books to television and movies for years and the trend seems to get only stronger the older I get. Hopefully I'm not alone.

Last week I was having a strong craving for pancakes. Gluten free pancakes can be very hit or miss, some are great, others barely edible. I decided to try a new recipe for Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Pancakes in order to utilize the large amount of oat flour I had in my cupboard.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active, and makes 8 pancakes. I only made a few changes to the original recipe. First I had a large container of coconut oil so I used it in the recipe. I warmed it in the microwave and I had no problems with it re-solidifying (like the recipe mentioned). I also cheated and didn't let the batter sit for 10 minutes. It was breakfast and I was hungry and I just wanted to eat. Not letting the batter sit didn't seem to change the outcome of the  pancakes. They were still fluffy without the wait time. Finally, I doubled the recipe and made my pancakes a little bigger than the recipe suggested so I ended up with 12 pancakes total.

These pancakes turned out very well. I topped the servings with melted peanut butter (which is delicious on pancakes and waffles - just heat peanut butter in the microwave for 20 seconds and it pours like syrup). The pancakes had a great banana taste and rose well on the griddle. They were delicious with peanut butter, but would also be great with butter or syrup. The only change I would make would be to add a small amount of vanilla extract the next time.

For the recipe go to Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Pancakes.

March 6, 2014

Almondina® Review and #Giveaway

Disclaimer: I received products in order to facilitate this review. As always all opinions expressed are solely my own.

My mother was a great cook. She could come up with fantastic recipes off the top of her head that were delicious. However, she was a horrible baker. Every once in a while she would decide to bake cookies, bread, etc. and it was almost always a disaster. I'm the opposite of my mother. I love to bake and cook, but baking I find the most relaxing. There is something about the smell of something baking which I find very soothing. While I love to bake my own sweets and baked goods I also like trying new products that are shelf stable and delicious for my family. I was recently given the opportunity to try Almondina® brand biscuits in my home and share my review with my readers.

Almondina® Brand Biscuits don't contain cholesterol, added fat, trans-fats, salt, or preservatives. They go great with coffee, tea, soft cheeses and dessert wines, in addition to being a great snacking option. Almondina® biscuits are available in the following flavors: 

  · Original - America's all natural favorite with almonds and raisins 

  · Chocolate Cherry - We combined the world's finest dark chocolate

    with plump cherries to produce an irresistible, decadent treat without guilt. 

  · Choconut - Rich tasting crunchy chocolate, but low in calories 

  · Cinnaroma® - The original biscuit for cinnamon lovers 

  · Gingerspice - Trend setting, with chunks of Australian ginger 

  · AlmonDuo® - Double-nut wonder with almonds and pistachios 

  · AnniversaryT - Award winning delight with a touch of anise 

  · BranTreats® - Made with oat bran and the finest cinnamon "Cookies For Breakfast"

  · Sesame - Irresistible, exotic, flavorful

  - Seasonal Pumpkin Spice - A seasonal attraction with a delightful touch of fall spices combined with the highest quality almonds and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) 

  Including new products:

  · Chocolate Dipped – the Original® dipped in the finest, pure, rich dark chocolate was 

    previously offered only certain times of the year is now available year round

  · Delights – The Original® Almondina totally encased in Milk chocolate

  · Yogurt Dipped – Brantreats® dipped on one side with a layer of all natural yogurt

Best of all they are only 30 calories per slice and all natural. Plus they are available at a number of stores including: Fairway, Hy Vee, Giant Eagle, Brookshire, Mollie Stone’s, Hannaford, Jewel, Whole Foods, The FreshMarket, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Cost Plus World Market, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and many others.

The story of how the company was started is as great as the biscuits themselves. The owner of Almondina® for the last twenty years is world renowned musical director Yuval Zaliouk. The recipe is based on his grandmother Dina's secret cookie recipe which she shared with Zaliouk's mother. Zaliouk turned the recipe into the delicious and nutritious cookies available from Almondina®.

To find out more about the company go to the following sites:
  • Like Almondia on Facebook
  • Follow Almondia on twitter @Almondina
  • Visit their Website
Since I can't gluten I enlisted my two boys and husband to try out the product. So what did they think? They ate all the packages in two days. Really it was more like one since they came late in the afternoon the first day. They loved them. My husband thought that they tasted like a cross between a fortune cookie and a good breakfast cereal. He thought they were delicious with coffee and as a snack straight out the package. My youngest stole a whole package, took them to his bedroom and ate the whole thing. Obviously he liked them. The chocolate flavors were the favorites of my two boys, while my husband preferred the original.

Now for the fun part. You can enjoy the same package that my family did. Just enter the giveaway through the rafflecopter form below! U.S. entrants only. Please note that previous winners of Almondina giveaways are ineligible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 4, 2014

Little Things Favors Eco-Friendly Cork Coasters Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

Little Things Favors Eco-Friendly Cork Coasters

I try to re-use as many things as possible around my house. What was once a plastic ice cream container becomes a spray painted trinket holder, a wine bottle becomes a statement piece of hand painted art. I love finding new uses for things that would other wise be thrown away, not only is it a great way to save money, but also eco friendly. In addition to re-using household objects I also love finding companies and products that use eco-friendly and renewable resources. Recently, I was given the opportunity to try a set of Eco-Friendly Cork Coasters from Little Things Favors. Here is my review.

Little Things Favors Eco-Friendly Cork Coasters

A bit of background. The coasters are sold in sets of 4 and are 4 inches wide. The word love is spelled out across the coaster in black lettering and have a very cute leather cord and heart shaped tag that keeps the set together. They would make great eco-friendly favors for a party or wedding favors for a bohemian or rustic wedding. Here is the link to the item to learn more for yourself:

Little Things Favors Eco-Friendly Cork Coasters

So what did I think? They worked really well as coasters in my home. I normally end the evening with a glass of red wine after dinner. These coasters did a great job of keeping spilled drinks from hitting the furniture and the shape and lettering is a perfect fit for my living room. When my husband and I were married 10 years ago I made most of the favors and decorations. These coasters would have fit in very well with the rustic theme that I did our wedding in. I could also see them as favors for a summer party, green favors are really in right now and these would be a good fit along those lines.

Little Things Favors Eco-Friendly Cork Coasters

The only negative I found with the coasters was that they are definitely more geared towards women. They would have to be women only favors since the lettering and shape are definitely feminine. I'm not sure how they would hold up over time with the cork as well. They might be more of a short term use coaster.

For more information go to the following websites: 
Right now you can win your very own set of coasters. Just enter through the rafflecopter form below, good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
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