Bakin’ and Bloggin’

I’ve been pinning lots of recipes lately on Pinterest and thought I’d share a few of them.

For some reason I’ve been in a “baking” mood lately. Every once in awhile this mood strikes me and I just go with it. Sometimes I do a lot in one day, other times I do a little each day for a week or so.

Here are the recipes I’ve been enjoying lately:

1. Strawberry banana streusel bread that I found at All Day I Dream About Food. The name of the blog had me intrigued even before the name of the recipe! I have never even baked with strawberries before but everyone in this house loves them so I knew it could stand a good chance of all thumbs up! And it turned out great…perfect for breakfast with your morning coffee. Here is a pic of my finished loaf:

2. Key lime yogurt coconut bread from ellysaysopa. The recipe calls for key limes, but since there are no key limes in this area, I used regular limes and it was really good! I will add this one to my recipe binder and will definitely be making this again. Here is a pic of my finished loaf:

3. Black bean brownies! A friend of mine brought these over one night and had us try them before she told us what the secret ingredient was. We all loved them and didn’t notice anything different. I couldn’t believe they were made with black beans! I looked up several black bean brownie recipes online. I was thrilled to learn that you don’t need ANY ingredients besides brownie mix and a can of beans! No eggs, no oil! So if you’re looking for a way to add some extra fiber and protein, while cutting back on fat and calories, I highly recommend these! I was a little scared with my first batch so I did sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on top before baking. Both kids and the hubby devoured them! And if you do taste the beans slightly (which I did but maybe just because I baked them and knew the secret), just spread on some frosting and you’re still getting the extra benefits from the beans. I snapped this picture before the frosting but they were much more enticing afterwards.

4. Berry Oatmeal Cups from Greenlitebites. These muffins are perfect for any of us on a busy school morning. And with hubs working from home, they are perfect for him to come upstairs and grab for a quick breakfast or snack on his breaks.  . I just made these tonight and he actually said “I could sit and eat a whole handful of these!” SCORE!! Yay me!! I did add chocolate chips on top of about half of them to help entice the kids. Hey, if it takes a few chocolate chips to get some oatmeal and berries in their systems, I’m all for it!

…And since I needed something to wash all these carbs down…

5. Green smoothie. This recipe is also from Pinterest. I used strawberry banana yogurt and added crushed ice and it tasted like a strawberry banana smoothie! Hubs and I liked it, the kids not so much, but they are accustomed to my basic peanut butter banana chocolate smoothies and nothing tops those…yet.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately in the kitchen.

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Uncrustables!

My kids are cuckoo for Smuckers Uncrustables!

They love PB & J but they won’t eat the crusts.

The problem: Uncrustables cost $6 for 10 sandwiches!

(even Aldi’s brand costs $8 for 4 sandwiches)

So what do I do in a case like this? MAKE MY OWN!!

You got it, DIY Smuckers Uncrustables!

You’ll need…you guessed it…peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

I also invested in this handy little tool but you don’t have to. You could easily cut the crusts off using a cookie cutter, and pinch the edges together, but I love this tool that I ordered from Amazon. there are several on the market so pick your favorite, or just use your own method.

After spreading the PB&J, I individually wrapped them in plastic wrap, put them in ziploc freezer bags, and placed them in the freezer…in the original Uncrustable box so the kids know exactly where to find them when they’re looking for them. I’m not fooling them at all – they know these are made by Mom but they eat them anyway.

They are perfect for school lunches and after-school snacks!

And because there’s no such thing as too healthy, I have taken it a step further and decided to add my own secret healthy punches to these snacks. Have you heard of the Sneaky Chef line of cookbooks by Missy Levine? I love this idea of pureeing fruits, veggies, beans, etc and “sneaking” them into all sorts of foods to get extra nutrition into your kids’ diets. I have been adding the orange puree to our pasta sauce, the purple puree to our brownies, and the white bean puree to our cookies and muffins for years. She also suggests adding white bean puree to peanut butter to add more nutrition. So I did! In case you were wondering about the white dollop on top of the peanut butter in the pictures above, its the puree.

All you need to make white bean purée:

Drain and rinse the beans, then purée them with 1-2tbsp water in your food processor. I portion them out using ice cube trays, let them freeze, then pop the cubes into a ziplock freezer bag. Then I pull 1-2cubes out each time I am ready to add some to some of my recipes.

And the kids still loved them! Now, I’m not sure exactly how much healthier mine are compared to the name brand, but if you use whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and reduced sugar jelly, you are already doing your family a favor. I love being able to control how much nutrition goes into these. You can use your favorite bread (white or whole wheat), use whatever peanut butter you prefer (omega 3 or organic) and whatever jelly you prefer (you could even make your own jelly).

my Uncrustables:

Total Cost:

3 loaves bread…$3

1 jar peanut butter…$4 (I used 1/2 tbsp for each sandwich and still have 1/2 jar left)

1 jar jelly…$2 (I used 1/2 tbsp for each sandwich and still have 1/2 jar left)

So let’s break this down.

Since I only used 1/2 jars, my $6 made 30 sandwiches, compared to $6 for 10 for store-bought sandwiches.

That’s TRIPLE the savings!!!

So if you are buying Uncrustables, do yourself a favor and try this out to save a little $$.

Or if you just make a lot of PBJs, do your family a favor and see how healthy you can make this, while saving yourself some time in the kitchen each day!

Fun with cinnamon rolls

I saw these heart shaped cinnamon rolls on Pinterest a few weeks ago, and meant to make them for Valentines Day. I was only a couple days late but I do love my kids every day so I guess it’s ok if Imake them on days besides February 14, right?

Here is my version. They were just as easy as regular cinnamon rolls. I just bought a can of them at the store. All you do is gently unroll it, leave the inside curl, curl the opposite end, shape it into a heart shape, and pinch the bottom to make a point.

As I was taking the picture, I decided that next time I make cinnamon rolls, I want to do something even more fun, so this morning I decided to spell my kids’ names out with them. I managed to spell both their names using only 1 can. I even added a heart and at the request of one of the kids, a clover! Yeah, that’s supposed to be a clover in the lower right corner.

This picture is probably not going to win any food blog awards since it is not the prettiest,

but it is fun for a 7 year old and a 3 year old to get to pick out a letter from their name to eat.

So for .40 cents  per can, (I bought these last week when the Pillsbury rolls were on sale for $1, plus I used a .30 cent coupon that doubled) I was able to make one very special breakfast. I actually bought 7 cans that day since i had extra coupons, so if you think of any other fun ideas for cinnamon rolls, please let me know!

Learning moment opportunity: For .40 cents, my second grader could tell you that you could use 1 quarter+1 dime+1nickel, 4 dimes, or 40 pennies. Yes she is learning how to count money, make change, and even write a check! No kidding! I think I better hide the checkbook soon!  Either that or teach her how to pay the bills for me! 😀

Happy Valentines Day!

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentines Day!

Ours started off with a Sweetheart Dance last week. The preschool that our youngest goes to hosts this every year for all the kids and their families.  I’m so thankful to be married to a thoughtful man – he thought ahead and ordered them corsages for the dance! How sweet is that?! He is a true romantic – it is so nice after Christmas to sit back and let him plan for Valentines. He always spoils us! Tonight he surprised us with 3 roses, one for each of “his girls”, and chocolates too.

Sweetheart Dance

Parties

Today, both girls had Valentine parties at their schools. Laila wore her new Love tee that I made her a couple weeks ago.  For 3-4 yr olds, they are happy enough exchanging Valentine cards. Here she is looking through her goody bag after she got home:

For Emma’s class, I made these really cute Oreo pops that I had pinned on pinterest from HipHipHooray. It took me awhile to figure out the trick, but I managed to have enough decent ones for everyone in the class to have 1. The trick is to use melted chocolate to set the lollipop stick inside the cookie, and allow it to set BEFORE you dip the cookie in chocolate. I made several of these that fell apart, and I was about to give up until I figured that out. The melted chocolate really adds a lot of weight to the oreos and they just don’t stand a chance without some “glue” holding the insides together.

Oreo Pops

Minute To Win It Game

For Emma’s class (2nd grade) I usually plan a game for each classroom party. Last year I did Valentine Bingo. This year I wanted something different. Our church hosted a Minute To Win It game night recently for families and the kids really got into it, so when I found this Minute to Win it game idea on pinterest, I knew I had to try it out. I printed a game sheet for each student and gave each of them a snack size bag of the candy that they would need for the game (the Red Vines didn’t fit in the bags so I had one of the students pass them out):

They had to follow directions by:

1) bite off each end of the Red Vines

2) dump the pixy powder into the circle, then blow it out of the circle using the Red Vine

3) open the kiss using only 1 hand

4) then arrange the M&Ms and complete the math problem.

They had so much fun with this!

Like a true scientist,  I had Emma test it out for me at home first:

It was definitely a hit and the best part was that everyone got the right answer because everyone’s combination of M&Ms was different! They got so excited yelling out their answers to see if anyone else had the same answer or not.

Happy Valentines everyone! And go tell someone you love them!!

1 Corinthians 13:7    Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. More

Saving on healthy groceries while keeping the hubby happy

We are in a bit of a health kick around here at this time of year and are trying to make better food choices, yet not get bored with the same healthy recipes over time.

I know it is not easy to buy healthy groceries on a budget. Produce can really cost you an arm and leg. That’s why I buy most of my groceries at Aldi! They do have a great Fit & Active line of food, but you can’t get everything there. Since both my husband and I are home for lunch ( I am a SAHM and he works from home) we were getting tired of sandwiches. My husband says he needs more MEAT but he doesn’t care for leftovers everyday…who does? We were looking for other options for quick, healthy lunches. Frozen lunches are the quickest, but not always the healthiest, UNLESS you invest in the healthy ones.  So I used a coupon database (you can see my post on Couponing  for how to use this very handy feature) to find coupons for some healthy, meaty meals in minutes. Most healthy brands all cost around the same whether its Weight Watchers Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, or Healthy Choice. You can find coupons for Smart Ones and Lean Cuisines (they are usually $1 off 5 or something similar), but I found several online (and higher value) coupons for Healthy Choice and Morningstar veggie burgers, so I decided to stock up on those. Also, they have more flavor options besides chicken. I was able to print 8 coupons (4 of which were Target store coupons). Walmart is closer to my house AND they honor competitor coupons, so I decided to stock up at Walmart using all my coupons.

What I learned from this:  It was not as easy as I thought to use competitor coupons there so I should have done 2 things:

A) Told them I was using these coupons BEFORE they started

B) Asked for a separate transaction for all my Healthy Choice items (I meant to do this and forgot before they started ringing them up).

See? I’ve been couponing for 2 years and I’m still learning as I go. 🙂 But I do know that if you’re nice to your cashier, they are usually willing to work with you and get you the deals you came in for.

Anyhow, it all worked out and I was able to save $8.48 on  $47.56 worth of healthy meals. Since he doesn’t eat these every day, these 16 meals lasted my hubby about a month. The Morningstar burgers are 4 per box so we have eaten some of those for dinner. I figure if he worked in an office and ordered his lunch just once/week for 1 month, it would still cost more than his frozen lunches for a month! AND he doesn’t get bored because I bought all beefy meals! No chicken since I cook enough of that at dinner!

I used 7 of these coupons: 6 $1 off coupons and 1 Buy3Get 1Free coupons {I did not use one of the B3G1Free’s}.

I bought these meals:

Once we started running low on those meals, I was able to print more coupons, so this week I bought 10 more meals, while saving $6 in additional coupons.

So, aside from eating more fruits and veggies and less snacking on junk food, this is one way we have eaten healthier this year, and saved while doing so!

Memo Board Organization

It is the start of a new year and everyone is talking about organization. From the kitchen to the laundry to the bathroom…just pick a room and get started…

Easier said than done, right?

I think the best place to start would be the area(s) that drive you the most crazy. For me, this was the kitchen counter! It is the dumping ground for receipts, coupons, schoolwork, mail, bills, etc. and it was driving me crazy. A woman needs her space in her kitchen. Having a nice open workspace makes you more motivated to use it for what it’s intended for…making meals for your growing family! When your kitchen space is dirty and messy, you don’t feel like starting dinner because the thought of cleaning before you can start makes you want to order in, which isn’t always an option if you’re on a budget.

So I have been seeing memo boards everywhere. They are priced around $25 each in stores. I decided to make one for much less. The best part about this is that you can pick out any fabric and ribbon you want and totally customize it!

You’ll need:

Wrapped canvas (mine is 16 x 20).

Batting (the $5 bag  will be enough for at least 6-8 boards).

FABRIC  I used 5/8 yard for a 16 x 20 canvas

Ribbon

Jewels/buttons to embellish the corners

Steps:

1. Cut batting to size of your canvas

2. Lay fabric face down

3. Center batting on fabric

4. Lay canvas face down on top of batting.

5. Wrap fabric around canvas, pulling tightly and stapling as you go. In my picture you’ll see a regular stapler, but a staple gun works much better.

Turn it over and admire yourcraftiness…

6. decide you how far apart you want to place your ribbon, lay it in place, then staple it onto the back to keep in place.

7. Hot glue your embellishments into the corners where the ribbon meets.

This one is hanging in my dining room where I usually sit down to plan my grocery shopping, clip my coupons, pay bills, help with homework, answer the phone, open mail, etc. so I think it’s perfect! I happened to have fabric on hand from a previous table runner I made last spring.

Here is my kitchen counter space that is thanking me right now! Lucky for me, I didn’t take a “before” pic, so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that I could hardly see the counter!

The other area that needed some organization is the girls’ hair accessories in the bathroom. I make flower bows so we have a small collection of those growing. We also have bottlecap bows, headbands, you name it!  I took my youngest to Hobby Lobby and helped her pick out a cute girls fabric since this is for her room. This one went much quicker since I’d already made one.

I filled it up very quickly…I think we might need a bigger one!

So now my oldest wants one for her room too to display her sports awards and pictures. So I’m thinking another trip to the craft store is in my near future!

My cost for these projects:

2 canvases ( they came in a 2-pack)…$8

Batting…$5

Fabric…5/8yard was $3.50. I already had fabric for one of the boards.

Ribbon…$4.00 for 2 spools..if you’re very crafty, you might have ribbon on hand, but I don’t have a huge ribbon supply.

My total for both of these memo boards was $20, so I was able to make 2 for less than the price of 1 in the stores! Not too shabby!

Super Friend Week

This week Laila was “Super Friend” at her preschool. That means that her picture is displayed in the classroom all week, she is the special helper, and she gets to share her favorite things. How cute is that?! She looks like such a big girl in this picture…sniff sniff…

On Monday she brought her Minnie Mouse and one of her favorite books we’ve been reading at home “Teachers”.

On Wednesday she brought in her favorite snack to share with her friends…strawberries!! To her, there is nothing better in the world than strawberries! I don’t think you could fully understand how much she loves them until you see the way she comes running when I tell her I have them. She is so excited that she drops everything. I’m the best mommy in the world in that moment of time. I could probably get her to do anything if I promised her a big bowl of ’em! Oh yeah, and she also brought some cheese cubes.

After watching “Tori and Dean’s Season Finale” this week {how dare you judge me, I survived high school thanks to Donna, Kelly, and Brenda!}, I realized I need to spend more time doing things like this with her:

Now I don’t go around doing everything that Tori Spelling does, but watching her have a tea party with her daughter made me realize that sometimes I get so caught up in our daily schedule (school drop offs, pickups, lunchtime, dinnertime, bathtime, homework, errands, bills, etc) that I need to make myself stop and

1)  take more moments for uninterrupted quality time

2)  take more pictures

3)  get to know my daughter(s).

So we had a tea party! You can see that she invited Minnie Mouse and Pablo. She got half a dozen Lalaloopsies for Christmas, but she chose her good ol’ favorites.

On Thursday a good friend called and was on her way into town and wanted to know if we could meet at the park…in February…very unusual here in the Midwest! We have really been spoiled this week with beautiful weather in the 60s. Normally in February, if we are outside, it is usually in snow suits. But this week we really only need sweatshirts…NICE!! It has been like this all week! Here are a few snapshots of my little one on the playground:

Here is a picture of her sister at the same playground at the same age (couldn’t get the pics to load side by side:(

So that was our week. Next week we will be busy preparing for classroom Valentine parties! I can’t wait!

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