Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

 

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.com

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner so I wanted to share a fun recipe for Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies that you could create as a fun treat to give or to share with those you love.

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.comGluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.comGluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.com

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.com

Walmart asked me to create a Valentine’s Day treat with one of their exclusive products they carry. Since I am such a big M&M fan, I decided to use their Red Velvet M&M’s in my recipe.

Do you ever have a really hard time with a recipe and then later wonder if it had ever been tested? That was the case with this project from start to finish. These cookies were supposed to be simple and straightforward, but the recipe ended up being written completely wrong. Thankfully for you, I spent a whole day figuring out what went wrong with this one and how we can fix it so that you can have an awesome baking day!

Please read this post carefully, I am offering you a load of tips for a successful baking day!! 

Are M&M’s Gluten-Free?

Let’s begin with the question, are M&M’s gluten-free? The answer is that most M&M’s are gluten-free. In fact, most of the varieties they typically carry, other than their pretzel variety, are gluten-free.

What I found with the Red Velvet M&M’s though are that they are gluten-free, but in high times of production, like Halloween & Valentine’s Day, Mars uses alternative facilities to make its candy and some of those may introduce cross-contamination risks. These Red Velvet M&M’s are ones that could have been cross-contaminated. If this is of high concern, look for the plain M&M’s, preferably mini-M&M’s to help your dough hold up better. 

It is always important to read your labels carefully and know that Mars Chocolate always promises to call out any wheat, barley, and rye ingredients by name, as well as any cross-contamination risks on their labels. I recommend this information page for finding which Valentine’s Day candies are safe to eat.

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.comGluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.com

Tips for a Successful Dough

As, I am a big fan of the Betty Crocker cake mixes, I used this to create my cookies.  As you can see when I mixed the ingredients together, this dough is very crumbly. To help make this dough really hold and stick together, add 3-4 teaspoons of water to the dough, until it really comes together. This will help when slicing your sugar cookie rolls.

The recipe that was written did not add this to the dough and so when I sliced them, the cookie dough crumbled. I had to add my water later and chill them again for another three hours. Once I sliced with the liquid addition, the dough held much better.

If you need these cookies to be dairy-free as well as gluten-free, please read the notes in the recipe on how you can create these without the butter.

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.com

Tips for a Successful Sugar Cookie Log

One more thing, I learned while creating this cookies is that it is better to make your sugar cookie roll WITHOUT the M&M’s in it and then add them to your cookies after so you can get beautifully clean slices.

Trying to cut through these Red Velvet M&M’s was a real challenge so I would encourage adding them after or just doing these cookies as a drop cookie. To do a sugar cookie roll, as pictured above with M&M’s, seek the mini varieties. Again, read the packaging carefully to insure that they are safe for eating.

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.com

Wrap your sugar cookie roll in wax paper and chill for three hours or more. Once you are ready to bake off your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then slice them and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or a well-greased cookie sheet. I prefer parchment paper, both for the ease of clean-up and how beautifully these cookies will set up.

Allow these to cool and then transfer. These cookies are very delicate in texture so you will want to give them plenty of time to set up. 

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies from MomAdvice.com

What Do They Taste Like?

These cookies are so delicious that you will NEVER know that they are gluten-free. The dough is so flavorful and the healthy dose of vanilla in the batter makes these taste like a cookie dough that you truly slaved over. The addition of the candies adds that yummy chocolate flavor that I think every good cookie should have.

With these helpful tips, I hope you will have a successful baking day and hope that this easy treat idea will help as you plan your own Valentine’s Day treats this year!

Can I Freeze These?

Cookies can be frozen! It is recommended that you wrap them in aluminum foil or in a resealable plastic bag for up to one month. Let the cookies thaw on the kitchen counters overnight before serving.

What Other Ways Can I Spice Up These Cookies?

If you can’t have chocolate, there are many other ways you can spice these easy cookies up.

Add Sprinkles- Lightly beat one egg white and brush the tops of your cookies with it, then sprinkle with gluten-free sugar sprinkles.

Add Zest- Add 1 teaspoon of grated lemon, orange, or key lime zest

Switch Your Extract- Try a different extract in your dough like almond or butter

Make It Spicy- Add a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, or dust the tops with the egg white & a cinnamon & sugar combo.

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 dozen
 
Cake mix cookies that can be gluten-free and dairy-free for a fun treat to share for any holiday.
Ingredients
  • 1 package (15 ounces) yellow gluten-free cake mix
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter- if dairy-free replace with vegetable shortening, MELTED
  • 1 large egg
  • 3-4 teaspoons warm water, just until you see your dough pull together
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup M&M's or read the post for other ways to spice up these cookies
Instructions
  1. Place the cake mix, butter (or vegetable shortening), egg, water, and vanilla in your mixing bowl and beat on low speed until well-combined.
  2. Using a spatula fold in the M&M's (if mini-sized) or reserve to press these into each cookie after they have been cut (if large-sized)
  3. Place the cookie dough on a sheet of wax paper and then press with your hands to form a long,approximately 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Tightly roll the dough and chill it in the refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets well or cover these in parchment paper.
  5. Unwrap the dough and transfer to a cutting board and slice them in ¼-3/8" slices.
  6. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges,7-10 minutes.
  7. Let the cookies fully cool before transferring.

walmart_mom_disclaimer

Have you ever made gluten-free cake mix cookies? Do you have any tips for beginning gluten-free bakers on ways to increase success with cake mix cookies?

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How We Successfully Raised $6,000 in Two Weeks for Burkina Faso

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

 

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

I could not be prouder of my friends and readers than I am today. Today we were able to give $6,000 in raised funds to our Wells of Hope campaign for Burkina Faso and pitched in another $2,000 raising our total to an incredible $8,000 to build wells. This gift gives up to 4,000 men, women, & children access to clean water.

How did we do it? I am baffled myself! When we initially pitched the idea to the ministry team at our church that we wanted to do this, I had no clue if we would ever be able to pull it off. I am no Momastery, in traffic or in size of influence, but I did believe that my passion for this project could be contagious, if seen in front of the right eyes.

If you are trying to raise funds for a passion project of your own, I want to share with you the strategies I used for this campaign. I believe that there is enough love and money to go around to fund these projects, but it is finding ways to make that voice heard that is essential for funding.

Start With a Clear Plan & Goals

I am a big believer in getting everything on paper and when I came to the team with my big dreams of birthday wishes I didn’t speak vaguely of what I believed I could do. Let me be clear though, saying it out loud is hard. I did not want to let a single person down.  At the same time, knowing that I was trying to commit to a goal, offered motivation for me to really pull through for Burkina Faso. We shared that our family was financially committed to one well and we hoped to raise enough funds for at least two more wells.

I shared every avenue I was willing to tap into, how we could gather our funds, what I would need from the team to get people to connect to our cause, and what would be happening each day in that first week on our site.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Get People Curious About What You Are Doing

I began posting teasers that we were up to something a couple of weeks in advance of launching our project. We wanted to get people excited that something big was going to be happening and that we would be calling on them to be a part of it.  You can do this even if you don’t have a blog or website, but just through your social media channels.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

State Your Needs Clearly So People Know Who They Are Helping

People need to know what they are funding and what organizations they are helping. In a case like ours where there are numerous organizations involved, I tried to clearly state exactly who the partners in this project were, facts about the community & people that would be impacted, and what a donation would mean to this cause.

Saying that we need clean water for people in Africa would not be as impactful as, “One out of three children will probably die before they ever reach the age of ten. The deaths are mostly due to a lack of fresh water. The women of Burkina Faso often walk several miles to a dirty stream or stagnant pool, just to fill a bowl with water.”

Children dying before they are ten?

Women walking for miles to find a water source?

It is awful, but truthful information that calls upon people to help in a very visual way.

 

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Find an Avenue for Easy Collection

I have been a longtime fan of Pure Charity and knew that I wanted to use this site to spread the message of what we needed. I cannot recommend their site enough for what they can bring to your passion projects.

I could go on and on about why I love them so much, but it all boils down to people being able to connect with your cause, see their money grow, and know how many they have impacted. You can take a peek at my campaign to see how this looked.  I can’t tell you how many people went back in and donated a little more after their first donation to the project, just see the money bar go up a little more. After each donation is given, through Pure Charity, the person is told exactly how many lives their donation impacts. Even if you were only about to offer $10, you knew that you had impacted five people that day once your funds were submitted.

This method of collection was easy and you can connect your organization right to the funds.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Donations Are Great- Whether Big or Small

Unless the organization’s collection form states that you need to have a minimum donation, show people small and approachable ways of donating. Anything over $1 was considered a donation on Pure Charity so I tried to think of things that were a little over $1 that people could “give up” to give a child clean water. A Redbox flick, a Starbucks coffee, a ticket to the latest movie, or a quick stop for a burrito is money that could be spent to give clean water to Burkina Faso.

It worked so well that people were donating after they went through the drive-thru or they gave up their weekly latte run or pizza night for my cause.

The point of this was to prove that you don’t have to be a millionaire to give. Every donation was important to me. Every. Dollar.

Connect Your Cause With Your Social Media Channels

If you are active on social media, use it to your advantage and ask your friends to spread the word. My two biggest audiences on social media are Facebook & Instagram.

Here’s a fun fact, I absolutely despise video or hearing myself on video or anything to do with video. That being said, some people like pictures, some people like videos, and some people just like to read a status. I tried to utilize every avenue from the beginning. An intro video connected you to our cause, I did a couple of thank you videos to thank people as we met goals, and we shared lots of pictures. If you want to make quick banners or collages for your cause, PicMonkey is great for your websites and if you are looking to add text to your phone images, I love Rhonna Designs app.

Thank Everyone for Everything Often

Each time we received a donation, I thanked them, whether publicly or privately. I was so grateful to everyone who gave, whether it was a dollar or a hundred dollars. The fact that they connected with my cause and helped meant the world to me.

Anytime I have ever donated to someone and received a thank you, it acted as double validation for what I did. With 121 contributors to our campaign, I tried not to overlook a single person and sent an email or message to them as soon as I could to say thank you.

After all, if we didn’t have these AMAZING friends we could never be sharing our success story with you today. My friends ROCK!

Don’t Stop Once You Reach Your Goal

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.Our goal was to raise enough funds for three wells. In the end, the money kept trickling in and bit by bit we were inching closer to our fourth well. If we would have given up when we reached our goal, we would have never known we could have achieved an additional well.

I’m not done with Burkina Faso though. The water of funds will continue to trickle as I knit my way to another well this year. I am working on my first round of wares for an Etsy shop to give all the profit to Burkina Faso.

If you have a talent for something and a burning desire like this amazing young lady that shared her story with our readers, you can continue raising funds in whatever little ways and pockets of time you have in your day.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Whatever your project, I pray that God blesses you abundantly in it. I also thank each of you for helping us reach and surpass our goal of giving clean water to the people of Burkina Faso. Thanks to your donations, we will have water for up to 4,000 people. What an incredible gift you have given us and these people.

Thank you for celebrating the site’s tenth anniversary with us in such a grand and beautiful way! It solidifies my belief that this is just what God wants me to be doing with my life.

xoxo,

Amy

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Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

I love to create new holiday traditions with my family and today’s project is in honor of the Chinese New Year!  To celebrate, I am sharing a tutorial on how to make felt fortune cookies and a free printable that can be placed on a jar for a special Chinese New Year tradition.

I have partnered with Walmart on this project to showcase a fun project that you can do in honor of the holiday. All supplies for this project can be found at their store!

What is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.  The Chinese year 4712 begins on Jan. 31, 2014. A fun fact for this year is that this is the year of the horse.

New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. In China, people may take weeks of holiday from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year. Can you just imagine?

According to the Chinese legend,  Buddha arranged a meeting and asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve animals came and Buddha named a year after each one. If you were born in certain years, your personality is supposedly aligned with your animal. Those born in horse years are cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands. Since this is the year of the horse, if you have a child born this year, it sounds like you will have quite a talented and delightful child.

There are many great traditions around this holiday that include wearing red clothes which symbolizes fire and drives away bad luck, and a lantern festival, and one thing that Americans really seem to get behind is…

The  FEASTING.

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

We are a Fortunate Family

Since the Chinese New Year is about feasting and family, I wanted to create a craft that would work for these two elements of the holiday. I love that many elements of this holiday focus on luck & good fortune. Incorporating this element, today we are making felt fortune cookies, but instead of filling them with predicted fortunes, we are going to fill them with all we are so fortunate for.

Because we are a FORTUNATE family. 

I love gratitude projects and thankfulness for all we have around the dinner table is definitely a tradition that I want my family to embrace.

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

Supplies Needed

(All Available at Walmart)

Felt Sheets (any color)

3/8″ grosgrain ribbon

Floral Wire

Wire Clippers

Large Mason Jar

Scissors

Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

1 piece of heavy cardstock

1 piece of white paper & pencil

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

How to Make Felt Fortune Cookies

1. Using your ribbon spool or the bottom of your mason jar, trace a circle with a pencil or marker. Cut out your circle.

2. Snip a piece of floral wire, approximately the length of your circle, with your wire cutters. Add a line of hot glue, and place the wire in the center of the glue.

3. Snip grosgrain ribbon the approximate length of your circle and then secure over the wire with a little additional glue.

Felt_Fortune_Cookies_Tutorial-12

4. Fold your circle in half and then bend like a fortune cookie. Repeat the process until you have a jar full of fortune cookies.

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

You can enlist your helpers to help make your fortune cookies. Since we have had UNLIMITED SNOW DAYS THAT NEVER END, I have many helping hands. Ahem.

The best part though, is involving them in the gratitude portion of this project. Using the writing prompt,

“I’m Fortunate For…”

Have children write down all the things that make their family special.

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

Emily said, “I’m Fortunate For…that my family are GRATE dancers.”

What can I say? She comes from a long lineage of family members that just BRING IT on the dance floor!

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

Mom & Dad can get in on the fortune cookie writing prompt too. Hopefully your husband doesn’t read this aloud and then ELABORATE endlessly on his AMAZINGNESS.

Awkward.

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com. Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

My husband designed this fantastic printable that you can attach to a jar. I just dabbed a little glue on my jar and attached this side. You could also print this on label paper or attach with a little double-sided tape to finish your project. (Grab the printable at the bottom of this post!)

If you are looking for dinner options, here are couple of great ones that I can recommend!

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken

This delicious gluten-free orange chicken would make a fantastic meal!

Peanut Ginger Chicken Noodles

These Peanut Ginger Chicken Noodles are always a big hit!

Weeknight Chicken Lo Mein

And this Weeknight Chicken Lo Mein is fast & easy to prepare!

However you celebrate this holiday, I hope this post offers some inspiration for fun ways to celebrate with your family.

Chinese New Year Family Tradition: We Are a Fortunate Family Felt Fortune Cookies from MomAdvice.com.

Grab Our FREE “We Are a Fortunate Family,” printable.

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Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

As Super Bowl Sunday quickly approaches, I wanted to share with you a gluten-free Super Bowl dish you can share for your game day eating.

This month Walmart asked me to share a fun Super Bowl dish that you can create from items in their grocery section. I will admit, that coming up with a dish that was both dairy-free AND gluten-free for my game day feast was a challenge to me. I am the girl that hovers over the creamy dips and loves a sub sandwich for my game day feasting.

When I thought about recipes I could share (and eat!) though, I settled upon my favorite pulled pork recipe that can be created in your slow cooker. This pulled pork is so easy to make because you simply put your pork butt or shoulder in your slow cooker with a little root beer and let it cook all day. And that is pretty much it!

I told you it was easy!

Gluten-Free Sweet Baby Ray's

My favorite sauce has (and always will be) the super delicious Sweet Baby Ray’s. Since going gluten-free, I have become insane about label reading especially when it comes to my condiments. I was so happy to discover that all of the Sweet Baby Ray’s sauces are gluten-free and you can, of course, find them at Walmart in the condiment aisle.

One of the things people warned me about when I started this journey was to always label-read especially when it comes to my condiments. I have found I don’t need to go to my specialty markets if I do the proper research on the items I need before I leave. For example, here are 7 condiments you may be surprised to find are gluten-free!

As we discovered when Emily baked my birthday cake, the offerings for gluten-free items are becoming more mainstream at our Walmart store!

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

I don’t know why I had not thought to pair pulled pork and a sweet potato together before, but it is the absolute best flavor combination EVER. Using my technique for perfect baked potatoes, I like to coat mine in olive oil and to sprinkle them liberally with kosher salt.

Once they have cooked, I split them and pile in sweetly seasoned pulled pork. You can hollow out a bit of the potato, if you need to, but I just stack the meat as high as it will go. Stick a fork in it, and you are ready to enjoy the game with your favorite beverage and a filling dinner!

If you are entertaining, pile these on a long platter with forks as a fun game day dish! I promise this will be a dish that is loved by ALL, not just your gluten-free friends!

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
An easy gluten-free & dairy-free game day dish you can share with friends, made easily in your slow cooker.
Ingredients
  • 6-8 sweet potatoes, scrubbed & pricked with a fork
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 (4 pound) Boston butt (or pork shoulder)
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle root beer
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle your favorite barbecue sauce (we love Sweet Baby Ray's)
Instructions
  1. Place the pork meat in a slow cooker; pour the root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily (approximately 8-10 hours).
  2. Shred the meat and drain the root beer from the slow cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce and toss gently.
  3. Preheat your oven for 400 degrees.
  4. Rub your cleaned sweet potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Do not wrap in foil, so you can get a crisp skin.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending upon the size of your potatoes.
  6. Let potatoes rest for five minutes. Cut a slit in the top and stuff with the pulled pork.

 

Looking for more great game day food, check out these Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings & these 12 Great Tailgating Recipes for your game day feasting!

walmart_mom_disclaimer

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Knitted Princess Leia Hat

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com.

Oh, you know I love a good knitting project! Today I am showing off my Knitted Princess Leia baby hat that I made. Not only that, but I am going to walk you through how to knit in the round for my favorite beginning knitters.

Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com. Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com.

Walmart let me choose any craft project I wanted this month and since I am in knitting mode this winter, I have been dying to make this cute little hat ever since I saw it on Ravelry.

Supplies Needed

  • 1 Skein Red Heart With Love in Chocolate ($3.84)
  • US 10.5 Straight needles (for knitting flat option)
  • US 10.5 Circular needles and set of 4 US 10.5 DPNs (for knitting in the round option)
  • Measuring Tape
  • Clipboard
  • Stitch Marker
  • Tapestry Needle
  • Scissors

Although, this hat can be knitted flat, I would love to challenge you to give knitting in the round a try. For a long time, I completely avoided projects that you had to knit in the round.

Four needles?

NO THANKS!

Unfortunately, if you never knit in the round you miss out on a lot of amazing patterns, particularly hand-crampingly tiny knits that would be stretched out when placed upon circulars.

Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com.

I decided to create a picture tutorial for you to help guide you through your first knit. A quick search on YouTube should also yield great video tutorials. Let’s begin with this easy diagram.

1. Cast all of the stitches onto one double pointed needle.

2. Using your strong math skills (ahem) divide the cast on number by three and begin knitting that number on to your second needle. Be sure that you are beginning your stitches as the pattern states and not just knitting them. For this pattern, for example, you are doing a K2 P2 rib. You will want to be sure you are staying on pattern with your stitches. Place a marker on that second needle (at the end of the stitches) so it marks the beginning of your round.

3. Knit, in pattern, onto the next needle. You should now have three needles with stitches! Yay!

4. You will now be scooting and joining stitches on your needles, like in the triangle of needles above. You will use a FOURTH needle though, to begin knitting in the round. Just begin where you have placed your marker and begin knitting. Because I only have two hands, I am just showing how to set it up. You will use that fourth needle to begin. Continue knitting and scooting things, making sure your stitches are all facing in the same direction, particularly in those first two rows.

Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com.

I love that these Princess Leia braids are not knitted. In fact, all we are doing is gathering yarn and braiding it like hair. I used a clipboard to clip the my hair to the top so that I could get nice and even braids.

Although the pattern says to measure these at 36″ long, I will admit that I am terrible measurer. If you are terrible like me, be sure to make both the braids and then trim them to be approximately the same length, otherwise Princess Leia is going to look a little lopsided!

Once I had the braid all gathered up, I trimmed all those loose pieces down and then secured it to the hat. These braids double as delightful little ear warmers.

Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com. Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com. Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com. Knitted Princess Leia Hat from MomAdvice.com.

The pattern gives you the options to make it for a Preemie all the way up to an Adult. I admit, after I made this tiny hat, I felt the impulse to make one for myself. I mean, who doesn’t dream of being Princess Leia?

With this large amount of yarn, I can easily make three to four hats for less than $4! Score!

Thank you to Fiber Flux… Adventures in Stitching for sharing her pattern with the Ravelry community! Be sure to friend me over there- I love sharing & seeing your projects!

Grab the Pattern HERE.

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Gluten-Free Orange Chicken

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

I love taking you all along on my journey as I discover all the deliciousness that can be created in gluten-free cooking. Today’s recipe is for a gluten-free orange chicken that will rival anything you get at your favorite Chinese restaurant, but can be prepared for your gluten-free lifestyle, made with less fat, and can be served over brown rice. The best part is how inexpensive it is to prepare and how beautifully this dish reheats.

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken from MomAdvice.com.Gluten-Free Orange Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

This project is sponsored by Walmart. Each month they challenge me with a produce-focused piece and it just so happens to be my favorite post each month. You may recall some of our past produce products: Blueberry Sangria Lemonade, my baked Strawberry Doughnuts, my easy dairy-free Peach Sorbet and our Slow Cooked Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal…just to name a few!

The Citrus Event is happening in-stores now and Walmart asked me to help them promote their Navel Oranges this month and come up with a unique idea for using them. The best part about buying them at their store right now is they offer a 100% freshness guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied with your produce, you can just bring back your receipt and they will give you a full refund. No questions asked and no need to bring back the purchase. How awesome is that?

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken from MomAdvice.com.Gluten-Free Orange Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

I am finding gluten-free flours to be expensive. I purchased a five pound bag of Better Batter for my baking, but for something like flouring chicken, I really didn’t want to use the fancy stuff.

While browsing the baking aisle though, I noticed that they did have a Betty Crocker Rice Flour that was just $3.38 for a pound. I went ahead and got that to try for my chicken and it worked beautifully! You would have never noticed the difference in regular flour versu this flour.  I am excited to have that in our pantry now for these types of recipes.

Of course, if you aren’t gluten-free (lucky ducks!), your standard all-purpose flour will work beautifully in this dish.

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken from MomAdvice.com.

Made with freshly squeezed orange juice (approximately 3-4 oranges), this sauce is a burst of citrus that is balanced with the flavor of a little balsamic vinegar and sweetened with brown sugar.

You can use chicken tenderloins or chicken breasts to cube into 1″ cubes for your meat. I browned these in batches and then added them all back into my cast iron skillet and poured the sauce on top, just cooking until the sauce was thickened and the chicken was cooked through.

Did I mention that this was a one pot dish? Winning!

If you have a rice cooker, you can enjoy some delicious brown rice on the side, for an easy and effortless side dish.

I doubled the recipe and my family could not stop eating it. It is truly the best thing I have eaten since going gluten-free and it is a dish that will be repeated over and over in our house!  Be sure to add this to your menu planners this month- it won’t disappoint!

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
An easy gluten-free orange chicken recipe that you can prepare at home and that can be easily doubled for a quick weeknight meal!
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins, cut into 1" cubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used rice flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (the juice from 3-4 navel oranges)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Cut the chicken into 1” cubes. Mix together flour, salt, pepper, and seasoning (if desired), then toss the chicken in the flour mixture. Cook in oil in a large frying pan over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together orange juice, vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar in a small bowl. Pour over cooked chicken and simmer on low for five minutes. Serve over brown rice.

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Join me in this week’s gluten-free recipe linky over at Musings of a Housewife!

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Winter Activity Idea: Baking With Kids

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Tips & Tricks for Cooking With Your Kids

Today is my 36th birthday and someone special wanted to bake me cupcakes for my special day. We decided to test-drive the new Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cake Mixes and wanted to offer some pointers for getting your kids in the kitchen… so they can bake your birthday cake.

Aren’t I a smart mom?

Walmart asked me to share a beloved winter activity with you that we do with our kids. Of course, one of my favorite activities in the winter is baking. What I appreciate most about my kids is their enthusiasm for learning and helping in my kitchen.

Cooking together can teach your kids so much. Here are just a few lessons we worked on while baking a cake together.

Tips & Tricks for Cooking With Your Kids

Cooking Together Builds Reading Skills

One of the best parts about having your kids help you in the kitchen is that they can practice their reading skills. With picture tutorials on the back of many box mixes, it can help beginning readers navigate the ingredient list and list of supplies needed to cook.

Tips & Tricks for Cooking With Your Kids

Cooking Together Builds Math Skills

Cooking with your kids isn’t only helpful in just the reading department.  In fact, the biggest challenge for me as a chef involves all that math that goes into recipes. For young kids, understanding fractions and measurements of the ingredients can be tricky, but can offer an important lesson.

Don’t just have them do the measuring, but explain all those different spoon sizes or read the packaging of the butter to have them figure out how much a 1/2 cup equals.

Tips & Tricks for Cooking With Your Kids

Tips & Tricks for Cooking With Your Kids

Cooking Together Can Lead to Independence

One of the hardest things I have found about being a parent is having the patience to let them do it themselves. It is the same patience that I needed when teaching them to tie their shoes, to clean up after themselves, and to help in the kitchen. Yes, it is so much faster for me to just do it myself, BUT when they become adults, how will they ever know how to do anything if their mama always did it for them?

Instead of using things like stand mixers and big appliances to get the jobs done in the kitchen, invest in the time of having them mix and beat things by hand or with hand mixers. Allow extra time when cooking with your children to give them time to figure things out themselves and to create it on their own.

 

Tips & Tricks for Cooking With Your Kids Tips & Tricks for Cooking With Your Kids

Cooking Together Can Build Confidence

When we eat the food our  kids make we do a lot of oohing and ahhing over it. Really take in the details of their work and compliment them on their presentation and flavors of their dish.

We have always tried to do this with our kids and I get such a kick out of them when I hear them mimicking back to me what a great job I have done on dishes or on the flavors of the foods I put together for them.

 Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cake Mix Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cake Mix Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Cake Mix

For those that asked about this Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix, I will be honest, and say that it really hit the spot. We baked these at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes and the cake was surprisingly light and resembled a sponge cake texture. The cake mix yielded 12 cupcakes and the cost on the mix was just $4.58.

When I shared about it on Facebook, friends chimed in with recommendations like adding a pudding mix to the cake or even a little extra vanilla, to boost the flavor. I am definitely going to have to try these additions! Layered with a thick layer of chocolate frosting though, and my daughter’s signature sprinkles, this cake was truly delicious.

If you are hosting a birthday party or need to bring in a gluten-free treat to school, I would highly recommend this cake mix for a fast and easy treat. The only difference  between making this and traditional boxed cake mixes is adding softened butter versus the oil.

Burkina Faso Fundraiser

On a personal note, I also wanted to thank you all for helping me celebrate my birthday this year by funding our wells for Burkina Faso. At this point, I am the proud owner of ONE WELL of clean water, which will give water to ONE THOUSAND people, through your donations. I am also almost halfway to my SECOND WELL. Can you believe that? In just three short days, we have collected almost $3,000 dollars! 

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We still need to collect $1,000 for our second well. You can donate as little as $2 towards our cause. Here are four things you could “give up,” this week to help me give clean water to women & children. Just think of the lives you can help me save this week!

Thank you for celebrating my birthday with me!! It has been the best year yet!

 

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Teaching Our Kids to Give: Inspiring Guest Post by Hannah Foust

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Teaching Our Kids to Give by Hannah Foust

As we continue to fundraise today for Burkina Faso, I wanted to share with you the most incredible young lady that has inspired me in such a big way to give to Burkina Faso. She truly helped to plant the seed for us that we wanted to raise funds for wells for Burkina Faso.

 

Here’s the crazy part…she is just 12 years old and she is doing it by doing small job projects. This is a great post to read to your kids and Hannah’s story inspired my own family to give in these ways too. You can read all about it at the end of her post! For now… just read this!

 

I have recently learned of a place, called Burkina Faso, Africa through Clay Church and Engage Burkina. Burkina Faso is the third most miserable place ON EARTH! Where water is scarce, where children have to choose between working to feed their family or going to school, and starvation, death and illness are part of daily life for so many. It is a place so overwhelmed by poverty, that we as Americans cannot even attempt to imagine the struggles they face. When I first heard of this country, I went to bed praying, please God tell me there isn’t really a place like this.

When I woke up the next morning, I felt compelled by God to help the people of Burkina Faso. I am determined to make an impact in two ways:

(1) by funding a well and

(2) by being a light of inspiration for others.

Teaching Our Kids to Give

Why a Well?

Many people in Burkina Faso travel extremely far distances only to collect (and sometimes pay for) water that is dirty, diseased and sometimes deadly. One well can provide water for up to 1,000 people and drastically improve their lives. One well costs $2000. I’m not too good at math, in fact it is my least favorite subject in school, but I know that’s only $2 per person. That’s not a whole lot of money to save a life.

Why Be An Inspirer?

I feel like this is probably the most important part of my call to help the people of Burkina Faso. I think sometimes we get tunnel vision and can’t look beyond ourselves. I think sometimes it takes another person to help us expand our vision to see a bigger picture. I hope to inspire others to see the needs of not just the people in Burkina Faso, but also people in our communities and beyond.

I believe this world has gifted and beautiful people who are “Noticers.” Noticers see things- the broken, the hopeless, the beautiful, the wounded, the tragic, the lost, the possibilities. Noticers respond by doing. Doing whatever it takes to help meet needs and create more beauty, joy and peace in the world. Noticers inspire!

Noticers help make other noticers, and together they do great things to change the world. Jesus gathered Disciples by walking along a dirty road and inviting them to become Noticers of the hungry, the sick, the lost, the forgotten and the hurt, and to help them see a tiny glimpse of the love and greatness of our God. I would like to say that I am a Noticer… but I have only just begun the process…

Will You Join Me?

I know that with Gods help, anything is possible, this means that kids and adults of all ages can impact the world, when they ask God to guide them, but you have to take the first step. The world needs more Noticers, and World Changers, and I know that, with God’s help, YOU can take those steps.

Teaching Our Kids to Give

How do you get started?

 

Pray

You want to know that this is God’s plan for you. Ask God to help you see the needs of others and to help you to meet those needs. My story begins with becoming aware of a need in Burkina Faso, then praying to God to help me know how to help. Now, He is helping me to do things I never thought were possible!

Tell Everyone You Know

They will be excited to see such a young person working for such a good cause. I receive letters almost every week from someone who has been inspired by my story. Teachers, friends, family, and even strangers, have been inspired by my story.

Social Media really helps! I am only 12, so I can’t have a Facebook account, but I do have a Facebook page that I use to share news about my project. I am also on Twitter.  Make sure your social media interactions are professional and that you represent your cause well. You can use social media to share your story, invite others to participate and ask your supporters to share your story. It is a great way to reach people you don’t know! Just remember to be positive!

Be Passionate

If you care deeply about something, then others will care, too! I feel a responsibility to help children in Burkina Faso, like I am their older sister. This has impacted the way I live life every day. Telling people about my project has become a big part of my life.

Do Some Research

I jumped into sharing my story in front of large and small audiences all over Indiana pretty quickly. At one of my first churches, I was asked questions I could not answer (where exactly is Burkina Faso and how deep are the wells.) It would have been great if I knew those answers. Sometimes “why” we are doing things is more important that all of the tiny details, but it helps to build support when you can clearly articulate all of the details.

Work Hard

Don’t just ask people to give you money. Find a job in the community, or start a club at school, to raise money and awareness of your project. I have raked leaves, shoveled snow, watched pets, and cleaned yards. When my neighbors need something done, I am the first one they call! I live in a very religiously diverse community. People of all faiths and backgrounds have been inspired to help in some way. Continue working, until you’ve raised enough money. Better yet, keep working until God tells you to do something else.

Get Your Friends and Family Involved!

I earned most of my money raking leaves in the fall. The jobs kept coming, and I needed lots of help! My whole family pitched in to help.  At first, my younger sister, Emma, felt left out as we talked about Burkina Faso over meals and in the car. Now, she feels like she’s part of the project, and she is! I really believe this project has brought our family closer together.

For my birthday, we invited friends and family to hear about Burkina Faso and the well project. Instead of gifts, friends donated to my project. We had a traditional West African meal and even had a time of worship! It was the best Birthday party I ever had! Since my birthday, friends have told me they have been inspired to live differently. Getting your friends involved helps them to make a difference, too!

I hope this list of ideas helps you to get started. Now, I have to ask! What are you waiting for? You can make a difference TODAY!

Teaching Our Kids to Give

Isn’t Hannah the most inspiring kid? I have learned so much from her and so have my children. What an example she is leading for other kids her age. I love her idea of becoming a “noticer.” What if we all made it our goal to be that type of person? It really would make the world a better place.

Teaching Our Kids to Give

Teaching Our Kids to Give

Hannah’s idea that we all have some skills that we can use to help the world truly resonated with me. God gave me the ability to knit and I thought that might be a great way to donate to Burkina Faso. While we were snowed in, I knitted up some baby hats to get a future Etsy shop going. It will be called, “A Well of Hope,” and all proceeds (minus my materials cost) will go directly to Burkina Faso.

Hannah’s story inspired me that we all have time & talent to share and what better way to use it then giving the gift of water to those in need. I hope I can knit my way to another well. Wouldn’t that just be amazing?

Won’t You Give Us a Present?

Let’s make a global impact for MomAdvice’s birthday and give clean water so that children, mothers, and fathers may live. Let’s celebrate doing something bigger than ourselves. Let’s make miracles happen!  I can’t do it without you! 

Just as Hannah has shared, every little bit helps. The best part about making a donation to Burkina Faso is that you can donate as little or as much as you like. Consider just one replacement of a Starbucks coffee, a movie ticket, a dinner out with your family, or just one less birthday gift this year. Any amount (great or small!) will help us reach our goal to providing Burkina Faso clean water!

DONATE NOW PLEASE!  To read more about why we chose Burkina Faso, check out our initial post over here!

 

Happy Birthday, MomAdvice: A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Burkina_Faso_Collage

Did someone say it is my BIRTHDAY WEEK? I don’t know if you know it or not, but this week I am celebrating my 36th year on this planet and I am also celebrating a decade of running this little corner of the internet.

A DECADE.

Something so special calls for something big. Last year, my husband just made the biggest deal over me to celebrate my first book and my 35th birthday. I said that this could never be topped.

I have a feeling that I am going to be wrong about that. You know why?

Because this year it isn’t about me. 

This year it is about helping others in the biggest way that I know possible.

A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso

A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso

A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso

I’ve decided to celebrate this moment and help those in need this year, by focusing all my efforts this week on fundraising for Burkina Faso. Have you heard of Burkina Faso?

I had never heard of it until this became the passion project for my church. It is the third poorest country in the world and more than anything these people need something so simple…something we take for granted every single day…

They need CLEAN WATER. 

Why Did We Choose Burkina Faso?

There are few things that break my heart more than children in need. The United Nations ranks Burkina Faso as the third poorest country in the world. The population of Burkina Faso is approximately 14.8 million people, the average income is only about $400 per year. The average life expectancy of men is 51 years and women is 54 years.

One out of three children will probably die before they ever reach the age of ten. The deaths are mostly due to a lack of fresh water. The women of Burkina Faso often walk several miles to a dirty stream or stagnant pool, just to fill a bowl with water.

A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso

I started this fundraiser on Pure Charity to raise $4,000. Every penny of this goes to fund wells that can provide clean water to thousands of people in need. Each well costs $2,000 to give clean water to 1,000 people. My goal is to raise enough funds for two wells.

I have partnered with Clay Church (our congregation) who partners with a variety of organizations to assist with establishing wells for Burkina Faso:

Who Are You Helping With Your Donations?

Engage Burkina is an organization that has come alongside the Burkinabe leaders, providing access to clean water, educational opportunities, and sustainable financial opportunities for widows and young women, while also serving those with malnutrition and bringing hope and a future to the people living there.

Clean Water in Africa, Inc. is an organization that is committed to making a difference in the country of Burkina Faso, Africa, by engaging the community and providing clean water resources. Its mission is to build over 1,000 wells in Burkina Faso, which is the third-poorest country in the world where one in three children die due to a lack of clean water.

Hearts for Burkina is a group of people with a heart for spreading Jesus’ love that continues to fund more wells in Burkina Faso, and develops ongoing relationships with the people of Burkina Faso who desperately need both literal water and the life saving living water of Jesus Christ.

Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development helps provide clean water through various partners and churches as well as research & studies to discover how wells impact these communities.

A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso

How MomAdvice Is Helping?

MomAdvice.com has pledged for one well and we are hoping you will give us a birthday gift this year of ANY AMOUNT to help us raise the funds to dig two more additional wells for Burkina Faso. Just imagine, what a difference we could make if we could give water to 3,000 people in need.

JUST IMAGINE.

A Well of Hope for Burkina Faso

Won’t You Give Us a Present?

Let’s make a global impact for MomAdvice’s birthday and give clean water so that children, mothers, and fathers may live. Let’s celebrate doing something bigger than ourselves. Let’s make miracles happen!  I can’t do it without you!

DONATE NOW PLEASE! 

We realize, typically for a blog celebration, I would host giveaways and give back to you. Over the ten years of our site, we have never charged you a dime for your experience here. I wouldn’t think of it.
If you have learned one thing on here, if one of my recipes has become a family favorite, if you saved on your family’s bills with a tip from our site, if Christmas was extra special because of a handmade idea on here… consider this just a small way to repay us for the research and time.
I beg you to make this year the birthday to remember. I beg you to impact these women and children.
I beg you. 

MomAdvice 10th Anniversary Gift Reveal from Clay Church on Vimeo.

Meet The New MomAdvice Contributors

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Contributor Collage

I am so excited to announce that we now have an amazing team of contributors for the MomAdvice website. As I shared with you last week, it is time for me to loosen those reigns on the site and allow some new voices in that can really showcase what MomAdvice is all about… empowering you and giving you the tools you need to live a great life on a budget.

We had over two hundred applicants and I really prayed hard about really bringing you what you might need as a mom. With that in mind, we now have contributors to assist you in food preparation, money management, and advice on parenting & motherhood.

MomAdvice Contributor Team

Money: Kelly Whalen (The Centsible Life)

DIY/Craft: Sarah Milne (Daffodil Design & Sarah M Style)

Marriage/Parenting: Mary Carver (Giving Up on Perfect)

Food: Shaina Olmanson (Food For My Family)

Food: Diana Bauman (My Humble Kitchen)

Managing Editor/ My Right Arm: Jami Boys (An Oregon Cottage)

Our contributor’s posts will be going live starting in the month of February! I can’t wait to share their words and ideas with you- I have no doubt that they will be awesome.
Thank you all for weathering the changes this week as we redesigned the site. My husband and I have looked like two zombies for the last week and with the snow storms blowing through here, I am enjoying a week to get back on my feet again.
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Speaking of weather…holy snowfall! We are snowed in over in Indiana! I am hoping that I can resume a normal work schedule (if my kids ever return to school!)
In the meantime, one more big announcement coming your way on Monday! Did you know it is my birthday week (yes, that is a thing!)? We are giving myself a big birthday gift for our ten year MomAdvice birthday and my 21st birthday…
A girl can dream.
In all seriousness, I can’t wait to share that with you! In the meantime, be sure to browse our new contributor’s sites! They are AWESOME!
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