Posts Tagged ‘Walmart Moms’

Roasted Tomato Bisque

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Roasted Tomato Bisque

There is nothing like a big pot of soup and today I wanted to share with you an easy recipe for Roasted Tomato Bisque. This roasted tomato bisque recipe is so easy and can be made from those garden tomatoes that you might need to put to work in your kitchen or created with whole canned tomatoes that you can keep in your pantry.

Walmart challenged me this month to share an easy weeknight meal strategy with you. I admit that my best weeknight meal strategy is making a big pot of soup on the weekends that we can enjoy all week long. I have gotten so good at making soup that I told my husband that if this blogging gig falls through that I would open my very own little soup kitchen.

True story.

Roasted Tomato Bisque

Have you ever roasted vegetables for a soup? It adds another layer of flavor to your soup that will surprise you. This soup is packed with roasted carrots, tomatoes, and shallots. The soups depth of flavor comes from a few interesting additions that add a beautiful layering when you eat it. First, the veggies are coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar that adds a little sweetness and saltiness to the soup. The second addition that makes this soup so special is a little sherry that adds a real depth of flavor. The third is the finishing of just the tiniest bit of cream. If you have a dairy allergy or are looking for a vegan alternative, you could leave the soup without it or add rice milk to finish the soup.

Weeknight Meal Strategies

I wanted to dive in a little bit more about my weeknight meal strategy. You see, it rarely changes although as my kids get older it does get more challenging in the evenings with our homework and extracurricular activities. On Sunday afternoons I do all my shopping and planning for the week. I purchase a week’s worth of food and I try to plan our dishes around that week’s activities.

Here are the themes I use for menu planning although I never assign a day to them unless it is our weekly pizza night and Sunday brunch. Everything else falls into place depending on the week’s activities.

Weeknight Meal Ideas

Soup Supper

If you are looking for a little soup inspiration, here are six easy soup recipes to try, a delicious white chicken chili, and a Stuffed Green Pepper Soup that is always a slow cooker winner. Serve these with a loaf of crusty bread or find out how to make an easy big batch of toasted cheese sandwiches when cooking for a crowd.

Meat-Free Night

Here are 30 of our absolute favorite meat-free dishes that we try to create in our kitchen once a week. For a new spin on tacos, try this recipe for easy 10 minute tacos for your family.

Slow Cooker Night

I am a HUGE fan of my slow cooker and use it at least once a week. Here are a month of ideas to bookmark for slow cooker creations in your house.

Waffles/Pancake Brunch

Sundays are for brunching in our house. I love to make a variety of waffles and pancake recipes on Sunday to be frozen and eaten for weekday morning breakfasts. Now that it is Fall, our pumpkin pancakes will be in constant rotation.

Pizza Night

Have you tried making pizza dough in your bread machine? I have been making pizza dough in my bread machine for almost a decade now and our Fridays just wouldn’t be the same without our fun pizza night.

Sandwich/Burger Night

Easy dishes like sloppy joes, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken pesto burgers, and Italian beef sandwiches are just a few examples of easy sandwiches/burgers that can be easily doubled for easy lunches and dinners.

Seek And Ye Shall Find Night

It is Biblical. Sunday night you need to seek and ye shall find in the refrigerator.

 

As you plan out your week, I hope you enjoy this soup for your own weekly soup night. Of course, the best part about soup is that it is the perfect dish to share with others. Be sure to share this one with those you love because I know they will love you for it.

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Roasted Tomato Bisque
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
A delicious roasted tomato bisque recipe packed with delicious roasted vegetable flavor and a hint of cream.
Ingredients
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained of their juices. If using fresh tomatoes 20-24 fresh tomatoes, washed, cored, & cut in half.
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 4 carrots, peeled, cut in half, and chopped into sections
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (can increase to ½ teaspoon if more spice is desired)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (or favorite milk substitute)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the drained whole tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes), olive oil, light brown sugar, carrots and shallots, and toss to coat. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the vegetables on a silicone or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until caramelized, about 30-35 minutes.
  4. Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add the butter and cook until foaming. Add the crushed red pepper and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the sherry. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the alcohol has cooked off, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the roasted vegetables, crushed tomatoes and 1 cup chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Add the heavy cream and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until uniform in texture.
  7. Add more chicken stock to adjust the consistency to how you like it.

You can find tons more strategies for meal-time planning in my first book, “The Good Life For Less!”  Grab our free weekly calendar printable for your menu planning needs!  What is your strategy for meal planning?

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Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings from MomAdvice.com.With the Fall comes all of the game time festivities and today I wanted to share a slow cooker chicken wing recipe that you can enjoy at your next game day festivity. These Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings are the perfect balance of sweet and spicy and are one of my favorite game time recipes I love to share with my family.

Walmart asked me to share a fun game time recipe with you and also would love to remind you that they are a one-stop-shop for all of your game time needs. The best part, of course, is that the will price match those competitor ads for you so you can get everything you need and the best deal on it while you are there. While you are there, I wanted to showcase one of my favorite game day recipes that I love to make for our family!

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings from MomAdvice.com.Making wings taste delicious in a slow cooker can be a challenge, but my trick is to season and broil my wings for ten minutes on each side to give it that beautiful color on the skin and to make sure that the wings start out well-seasoned before being slid into your slow cooker. I love that a lot of the fat renders out of the wings too while being broiled so it is a much healthier option than frying them.

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings from MomAdvice.com.The secret is, of course, in the sauce that they are glazed in. My sauce has a mixture of soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, honey, garlic, and that bold and spicy Bourbon flavor comes from a new Sweet Baby Ray’s Kickin’ Bourbon Chicken Wing Glaze that you can find over in the condiment aisle of your store. The more of this you add to your sauce, the spicier it will be. This glaze will be thin, but will coat your wings beautifully.

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings from MomAdvice.com.The slow cooker gets a little crowded with this many wings in there so I do the ultimate slow cooker no-no and open that lid up and shift them periodically. Thanks to broiling them beforehand though, these wings will be done in two hours on high or four hours on low!

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings from MomAdvice.com.

Slow Cooker Honey Bourbon Chicken Wings
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
These wings are the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The best part though, is that they can be created right in your slow cooker for game day entertaining!
Ingredients
  • 4 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 cup honey
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Teriyaki sauce
  • ¼ cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Kickin’ Bourbon Wing Glaze
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. Season wings with salt & pepper. Place wings on a cookie sheet and broil for 10 minutes on each side.
  2. Transfer wings to the slow cooker.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl or mason jar and mix well.
  4. Pour the sauce wings.
  5. Cook on high two hours or low for four hours.

Looking for more game day recipes? Check out this list of 12 Great Tailgating Delights! Looking for more slow cooker recipes? Don’t miss this One Month of Slow Cooking article with 30 recipe ideas for your family!

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Greek Quinoa Salad

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Greek Quinoa Salad from MomAdvice.com.

Labor Day festivities are just around the corner and with that comes the fun with grilling out and sharing dishes with friends. Today I wanted to share a delicious Greek Quinoa Salad that can be made with many of the veggies lurking in that backyard garden and that easily pairs with a few items you just might have in your pantry.

Walmart challenged me to create a unique dish for Labor Day and I couldn’t wait to share this one. You see, I have been going through a bit of an identity crisis since my visit with my allergist. I was advised to limit my pasta intake and it has been a hard sacrifice for me because I happen to love my pasta…and, sadly, my pasta salads are my claim to fame in the cookout world.

I’m thankful that I discovered quinoa last year because it has helped me so much with my pasta hurdle. I hope you caught my Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers I made last week and that handy tutorial for preparing your quinoa in the rice cooker! I have been continuing to experiment with this delicious and protein-packed ingredient for my summer cooking and couldn’t wait to pair it with some of my favorite Greek flavors. This quinoa salad proves that there are certainly some fun ways around that pasta hurdle and I doubt you will even miss your pasta after you try this!

Greek Quinoa Salad from MomAdvice.com.

The most labor-intensive part of this recipe (no pun intended!) is the chopping. It is an awful lot of chopping, but the flavors are so worth it. This Greek Quinoa Salad is filled with fresh vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers, and fresh parsley. The salty bites come from the Greek olives and the bites of feta cheese (optional, should you be dairy-free). The whole salad is tied together with a delicious red wine vinaigrette made even more flavorful the longer that it sits.

Greek Quinoa Salad from MomAdvice.com.This is one of those recipes that you can customize depending on what you have growing in your garden or what is on sale that week in your store. If you are shopping Walmart, be sure to bring the competing store fliers in and have them price match those produce prices for you!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I hope it can be your very own, “claim to fame,” at your next cookout! Happy Labor Day, friends! Greek Quinoa Salad from MomAdvice.com.

 

Greek Quinoa Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This Greek Quinoa Salad has all the right flavors, colors, and textures with a light vinaigrette dressing to round it all out.
Ingredients
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped to a paste
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 cups red and yellow grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted Greek olives
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cucumber, diced and seeds removed
  • Feta for sprinkling on salad (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a bowl whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, and zest from one lemon. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the salad to allow the flavors to meld.
  2. Rinse the quinoa in a strainer until the water runs clear.
  3. Prepare quinoa as directed above in a rice cooker or according to package directions.
  4. Transfer the cooked quinoa into a bowl, fluff with a fork and let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
  5. Add the tomatoes, olives, chopped red bell pepper, chopped cucumbers and dressing and toss to coat.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours before serving. The longer it sits the better the flavor.
  7. Just before serving, transfer to a platter and sprinkle feta on top.
Adapted from Bobby Flay Fit

Looking for more fun cookout dishes? Be sure to check out the Best Steak Marinade in Existence, my Corn Grilled in the Husks, my Three Cheese Grilled Potatoes, and my delicious Grilled Portobello Burgers to tempt your tummy!

 

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DIY Homework Study Station

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

Back-to-School time is almost here for my crew and today I wanted to show you an easy DIY Homework Station you can create for a fun, focused, and quiet little spot you can create for your homework time. This Tri-Fold Homework Station idea was something that I came up with to do for the back-to-school season with Walmart. Each month they give me a fun craft challenge and I couldn’t wait to create these for my kids.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.These homework stations are perfect for small space living. Two kids at one table, but each having a place to call their own, so they can focus on their own coursework.  The best part is that these can fold flat and be stored elsewhere when not in use! I can’t wait to show you just how easy it is to create these for your kids!

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

Supplies List

1- tri-fold foam display board (this will make two homework stations for you)

Razor Blade

General  Purpose Spray Adhesive

Chalkboard Spray Paint (over in the paint aisle)

Rectangle Wooden Plaques (one or two depending on how many stations you are creating)

Decorative envelope(s) and stickers

Binder Clips (we did two for each one)

Scrapbook Paper in coordinating colors (8 sheets total per homework station. The type of paper we are using is their Watercolor Paper that they offer for $5 for the pack)

Hot glue & glue gun

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.Directions

1. Begin by measuring and marking the halfway point for your tri-fold display board. The display board is 48″ total, so you will want to cut it so that each side is 24″ long.

2. Cut the display board with a utility knife, making sure to cut carefully through all of the layers.

3. Spray paint your wooden plaques to create your chalkboards for your homework station.  Make sure to shake the can really well, as instructed on the back of the can. Hold your can 8 inches away from your surface and spray in a sweeping motion side to side with a slight overlap. It has always been my experience to go thin with the paint, allow it to dry, and then to add another layer for the best results and minimal drip. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

5. While the frames are drying, pick out eight sheets of scrapbook paper and set them up for where you would like to display them. Set them aside and, beginning with one side, line the bottom sheets up and, holding them in place with your hands, flip them up to add a little spray adhesive to the underside. Do this all along the bottom of your display board.

6.  Now do the same process again on the top, making sure that they line up with each other and with the top edge of the display board.

7. Once your chalkboards have dried, use your hot glue gun to mount it to your display. Attach an envelope next to it with chalk. Make sure to give your chalkboard 24 hours to cure before writing on it and prepare your chalkboards as I have show in this handy tutorial.

8. Add any stickers or decorations you might like to your homework station or let your kids decorate it themselves.

DIY_Homework_Study_Station_8 9. Clip your binder clips to the top of your display and then add any printables, thoughtful motivational quotes, calendars, etc… to the homework station.

Here are some free printables that I found that I really love:

Weekly To-Do List (A Pair of Pears)

Macaron Calendar (from Jolie Jolie Designs)

Modern Calendar (from LAUs NOTEbook)

If you are looking for more, be sure to check my Printable Goodness Pinterest Board for more ideas.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

Good luck to everyone heading back to school! I hope this homework station inspires a fun new homework hangout for your kiddos!  I look forward to showcasing more fun back-to-school ideas to inspire your life this year!

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Ditch the Juice Box: Fruit-Infused Water Recipes

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Fruit-Infused Water Recipes

Back-to-school means back to the grind of packing lunches. Today I wanted to share a healthy alternative to juice boxes and recipes for creating a fun fruit-infused water for those lunches this year. Fruit infused waters are frugal, fun, and a healthy alternative to the traditional juice box.

Walmart challenged me to come up with an easy back-to-school project and packing a healthy lunch is always a top priority in our house. You may recall my fun lunch box station that I created in our house just for this reason? I am happy to say that this lunchbox system is still performing so well in our house and I am looking forward to packing lunches with it again.

Fruit-Infused Water Recipes

What is Fruit-Infused Water?

Have you ever infused water before? It truly could not be easier and you can mix up any flavors that you love and personalize these to your own personal taste. Pictured above are some mix-in ideas we tried in our house. We purchased mint, basil, berries, limes, oranges, and lemons to create different flavor combinations for fun fruit waters. We like to keep things simple with just plain water, but you can also make it a little sweet with a little liquid stevia.

Seltzer can also be a fun switch-up, but carbonated drinks are always a gamble in our lunchbox, since they tend to get a lot of shaking and movement on the way to school!

I am displaying these in mason jars to show the colors, but when placed in your child’s lunchbox, I would recommend a leak-proof stainless steel water bottle or thermos to keep these nice & cold. Here are a couple of fun options that Walmart stocks! (Stainless Steel Water Bottle, Flip-Top Water Bottle, &  Silver One Red Stainless Steel)

How Long Does Fruit-Infused Water Last?

Fruit-infused water is best enjoyed after two-four hours or after it has had a chance to infuse overnight. The length of time it lasts depends entirely on the type of fruit and herbs you use. Basil, for example, only lasts for three days while heartier varieties like rosemary or thyme can last up to seven days.

You can reuse the same fruit and add another batch of fresh water over it once you have gone through your first batch.  The fruit can be used (typically) up to three times, but it will also depend on the freshness of the fruits you are using. If the fruit starts to look bad, it’s best to toss it and start with a fresh batch.

Citrus fruits are best cut fresh for your batches because the rind can add bitterness to your fruit-infusions. I like to keep my lemons, limes, and oranges fresh for that reason while reusing my berries for several batches.

It is really a matter of preference though and once you get the hang of making your own batches of fruit-infused water you will have a better idea of timelines.

Fruit-Infused Water Recipes

Fruit Infused Water Combinations

The beauty of making your own infused waters is that you can create any combination that your heart desires and add as little or as much fruits and herbs into your drink as you like!  Get inspired by the fruits and herbs that are on sale that week in the supermarket flier to help inspire new combinations and keep your fruit-infused waters frugal!

If the recipe calls for muddling, it just means bruising your fruit or herbs to release the flavors. I just use a wooden spoon for this.

Here are a few of our favorite combinations we tried:

Blueberry & Mint

2 cups blueberries

2 sprigs of mint, muddled

2 quarts of water

Strawberry & Basil

10 strawberries, thinly sliced

3 basil leaves, torn into quarters and muddled

2 quarts of water

Citrus Blend

1 orange, thinly sliced

1 lime, thinly sliced

1/2 a lemon, thinly sliced

2 quarts water

Just The Berries

10 strawberries, thinly sliced

2 cups blueberries, slightly muddled

2 quarts water

Fruit-Infused Water Recipes

Fruit-Infused Water Recipes
Recipe type: Drinks
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ditch the juice box and create a healthy fruit-infused water for your child’s lunchbox. Check out our fun flavor combinations in my blog post!
Ingredients
  • Fruit & Herbs (check the blog post for combination ideas)
  • 2 quarts of water
  • Ice
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Pitcher
Instructions
  1. Place the fruit and herbs, in the bottom of your pitcher and muddle with a wooden spoon, if directed.
  2. Fill the pitcher with water, cover, and refrigerate two hours or overnight, for maximum flavor.
  3. Fill a glass or thermos with ice. Pour your fruit infused water over the ice and enjoy!

Have you infused water before? What is your favorite infused water combination?

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DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard DoorWhat could be better than a fun summertime outdoor project? Today I want to showcase an easy DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door that I created to entertain my kids in the summer months. This DIY chalkboard project that we created is one of my new favorite things in our backyard.  This project featured is in conjunction with my job as a Walmart Mom and all of the supplies can be found at your local Walmart store.

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

Here is a picture of what our tired old door looked like on our outdoor shed. The neutral paint showed all of the dirt, debris, and water drip marks all over it. It was becoming an eye sore in our backyard. Instead of painting it with regular paint, I decided to transform this spot into a new backyard activity area and give the kids a spot to do their drawing outside.

For adult entertaining, this can double as a place to jot down a menu, create a welcome sign for your guests, or keep tally of game scores in a wild game of badminton.

We are crazy like that.

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard DoorSupplies List (if you buy everything it will be less than $25 in supplies!)

1- 30 ounce container of Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Paint in Black Finish (over in the painting supplies)

Soapy Water & Rag (for wiping down your door)

Painters Tape

Paint Roller

Paint Brush

Paint Tray/Liners

Directions

1. Clean your surface and let it dry. I wiped my door down with a grout brush and a pail of sudsy water and then rinsed it with our hose.

2. Tape off around your door handle to protect it from getting paint on it.

3. Pour your paint into your paint tray and begin applying your first coat with your paint roller. The paint will be dry to the touch within thirty minutes, but give it a full four hours before applying your second coat.

4. Add a second coat of paint and repeat with the same timing above, if you desire, to add a third coat.

5. Allow the door to dry for three whole days before beginning  your conditioning or writing on it.

6. Before writing on it, after three days time, condition the surface by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk on the surface and then erase.  I like to rub my chalk in one direction and then rub it in the opposite direction for good coverage. This  will leave a coat of chalk dust that will provide erasability. Your chalkboard can be wiped clean with a damp towel, but wait seven days after painting before wiping it down. Repeat the conditioning step after cleaning.

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

Give your kids some chalk and the chance to create their own welcome sign for your guests outdoors!  I hope your family loves this project as much as we do! The best part is the hours of enjoyment they get and the lack of dirt showing on my outdoor door in the backyard.

A win-win for both kids and parents!

If you loved this project, I just know that you will love these ideas for Chalkboard Fun & Outdoor Entertaining!

S’More Toppings Bar Party

DIY Chalkboard Conversation Bubble Cookie Jars

Dollar Store DIY Chalkboard Food Label Frames

DIY Lunchbox Creation Station

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Summer Party Fun: How to Host a S’more Toppings Bar Party

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

How to Host a S'more Toppings Bar Party from MomAdvice.com.

If there is one thing we love about summer, it is our s’mores. Today I wanted to showcase a s’more toppings bar that you can create for a summer party and share some unexpected s’more flavor combinations you can try on your s’more toppings bar.

Walmart challenged me to create a summer party that anyone could replicate with just $25 in supplies. I wanted to host an evening for my girlfriends with a s’more toppings bar.

I love that this idea is easy, requires no cooking, and you can even encourage each of your friends to bring their own favorite topping or a drink to share. I displayed my toppings in inexpensive ice cream bowls that you can find over in the seasonal section of the store for a buck each!

S’more Toppings Bar Ideas & Combinations

 

Marshmallow, Strawberries, & Nutella

Marshmallow, Strawberries, & Dark Chocolate

Marshmallow, Strawberries, With Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt Bars

Marshmallow, Bananas, & Nutella

Marshmallow, Strawberry, Banana, & Nutella

Marshmallow & Reese’s Cups

Flavored Marshmallows (Butterscotch, Vanilla & Chocolate Swirl, or Key Lime)

Andes Mints With Marshmallow

Lemon Curd & Marshmallows (hellooo, lemon meringue pie!!)

Marshmallow, Apple Slices, & Cinnamon

Marshmallow, Biscoff Spread, & Apples

Marshmallow & Biscoff Spread

Chocolate Graham Crackers, Marshmallow, & Strawberries

How to Host a S'more Toppings Bar Party from MomAdvice.com.

It was such a fun night and everyone walked away with a new favorite s’more combination.  If you have a load of toppings, you can write titles next to them or give your guests a helpful cheat sheet of suggestions to put together after roasting their marshmallows. Kraft paper can be found over in the shipping & home office supplies section of the store along with Sharpie pens for writing your own cheat sheet of notes.

How to Host a S'more Toppings Bar Party from MomAdvice.com.

How to Host a S'more Toppings Bar Party from MomAdvice.com.

How to Host a S'more Toppings Bar Party from MomAdvice.com.I had planned to host this at my own home, but a powerful gust of storms moved in and left us without power for several days. My dear friend graciously stepped up to the plate to host the evening and allowed me to setup my s’more topping bar at her house.

How awesome is this setup? I know, SO awesome!

I am so thankful for great friends, great times, and great food! I hope this inspires you for a get together with your own friends this summer or even a fun birthday party idea in the summer months!

This s’mores party was such a hit and I can’t wait to do it again and to do something this fantastic for less than $25? Absolutely priceless!

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What is your favorite s’more combination?

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Fresh Peach Sorbet

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Fresh Peach SorbetPeach season is upon us and what could be better than putting those fresh peaches to work in a peach sorbet. This homemade peach sorbet tastes rich and creamy, but is dairy-free and packed with fresh fruit, for the perfect summer treat!

Fresh Peach Sorbet

I was a kid that grew up on the good old-fashioned canned peaches and humbly admit that I had never eaten a fresh peach until this year. Once I tasted how delicious a fresh peach peach was, I realized just what I had been missing all of these years.

Each month, Walmart is challenging  me to use one of their produce items a new way and to share some easy tips for selecting your produce. Have you seen my past projects? I bet you would love our Baked Strawberry Doughnuts and Blueberry Sangria Lemonade that I created with some of the past produce picks.

Fresh Peach Sorbet

How Do I Pick the Perfect Peach?

Look for peaches that have a slight give when pressed, but try to avoid peaches that are heavily bruised. When examining the stem end, they should have a yellow, amber, or golden hue, but not a greenish tinge.

If you have peaches that you’d like to ripen further, leave them at room temperature in a dry area. Check them daily to see if they have reached the desired ripeness and upon reaching that, refrigerate them. Refrigeration helps to stop that ripening process so even those super ripe peaches will last a couple of days longer in your refrigerator.

This month marks one year that I have started my journey on a dairy-free diet. It’s been one of the hardest things I have done, but one of the most beneficial to my health. There are few things that I can’t replicate or substitute, and the only true challenges that present themselves are when I am not at home and able to control what is being served.

Although I have never been a big ice cream eater, sometimes I crave that ice cold treat in the summer. I decided to create this peach sorbet as a special treat for myself. I love this recipe for a lot of reasons; it is jam-packed with fresh fruit, it doesn’t even require you to peel a peach, it has no dairy, and it tastes like summer in a dish.

What’s not to love?

Fresh Peach Sorbet

Why Is There Alcohol in Your Sorbet?

If you don’t want your ice cream or sorbets to freeze as hard as a rock, you can add a little alcohol to your ice cream or sorbet recipes to keep the ice cream softer and easier to scoop. I promise that you won’t even taste it.

Alcohol basically acts as an anti-freeze agent in your ice cream and a little bit will go a long way in your recipes (only 1-3 tablespoons necessary per batch). To read more about the science behind alcohol in your ice creams or sorbets, check out this awesome post from David Lebovitz that explains it a bit more.

If you don’t keep alcohol in your home, try purchasing those mini bottles of alcohol for your homemade ice cream batches. I promise, you will thank me when you don’t have to wait an hour for the ice cream to thaw so you can scoop it!

Why Don’t You Peel the Peaches for the Sorbet?

Why make more work for yourself? Your food processor will do a great job of breaking the skin down in your sorbet and you won’t even taste it. I think it adds some pretty flecks of color throughout the batch and it is less work for you! That is what makes this recipe such a winner with this fruit!

Fresh Peach Sorbet

Fresh Peach Sorbet
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
An easy dairy-free sorbet packed with fresh peaches for a fun summertime treat! Low in calories, rich in fresh fruit, and easy to make!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 pounds fresh peaches (any variety)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lightly beaten egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
Instructions
  1. In a small heavy saucepan heat sugar and water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool syrup.
  2. Cut and pit your peaches, leaving skins intact.
  3. Add the peaches to your food processor and purée until smooth.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add syrup and lemon juice.
  5. Chill the mixture until cold.
  6. Stir in egg white and vodka.
  7. Add the mixture to your ice cream maker and run as directed (I churned mine for about 15 minutes).
  8. Serve sorbet immediately or transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden for a few hours.

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Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care PackageHave you ever received or sent a care package? There is so much joy in the giving and the getting of unexpected mail anymore. Today I want to share how to mail the perfect happy mail care package.

We talk a lot about caring for others whether it is making care packages for the homeless, embracing the scraps of life giving philosophy, knitting chemo caps for others, or how we teach our children compassion and gratitude for what they have.

There are millions of ways to give and we try to live our lives in the “pay it forwardness” philosophy. 

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

It is no secret that our family endured almost a year of unemployment and a mountain of credit card debt that came along with it. I often look back on that time in our lives and wonder how we ever did it.

How did we make that situation work?

How did our marriage survive it?

How did we manage to keep our home and our car?

Do you know someone that is struggling? Sometimes the littlest things can mean the most and today I wanted to show I wanted to share with you some ways you can make a difference in the life of someone who is undergoing financial struggle or unemployment.

Walmart gave me the chance to showcase a project that I was passionate about and I wanted to think of a way we could bless someone else in our life. We decided to make the ultimate care package for someone we love and wanted to show you some ideas of things you could add to a care package for someone YOU love!

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

Pack Something Fun

What fun would a care package be without a few fun things in them. When we were struggling financially, one of our our favorite things we would indulge in was board games in the evenings. Board games, puzzles, a gift card to Amazon or Netflix, or a month of Hulu could all be fun things to share in your care packages.

Make your gift even more fun with personal notes, pictures, party confetti, and fun tissue paper. I found birthday candles that spelled, “Happy,” to decorate the top of our gift. These fun additions really make it feel like a real present.

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

Pack Something Delicious

If there is one thing that I truly love to share, it is my passion for food. Food gifts are the ultimate in surprises and can be inexpensive to create. In this package, we mailed off my favorite Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt Brownies and paired it with some Tazo Chamomile Stress-Free tea.

Other fun food gifts that would be easy to mail are my Sugar & Spice Nut Mix, Honey Nut Granola, Peppermint Marshmallows, Oreo Biscotti, Hot Cocoa or Vanilla Chai Tea Mix, Snickerdoodle Biscotti, Monster Cookie Bars, Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, Microwave Peanut Brittle, or Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies…just for a few options to start with!

Be sure to pack them snugly so that they can withstand their travels. I found these smart round foil pans with a sturdy cardboard lid in the baking supplies section of Walmart. I wrapped our brownies snugly in parchment paper and placed our, “happy,” label on the outside.

Although, I understand despite my best efforts, things got damaged in route. If I was doing it all over again, I would secure the entire tin with a good wrap of packing tape around the outside!

If you are mailing these treats to a college student, be sure to snag our cute free printable college coupons for future deliveries!

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

Send Something Practical

Gift cards are a wonderful gift to send in your care package. If you have their address, you can look up what stores are nearby to the area, or ask them where their favorite place is to shop. Choosing a gift card to a superstore is always a nice option because it can be put towards any of their immediate needs around the house or what they might need in their fridge.

Don’t focus on how little or how much you can give on the gift card. ANY amount is always appreciated and will put to good use.

ANY.

 

Mailing the Perfect Happy Mail Care Package

You can make an incredible difference in the life of someone who is struggling financially or unemployed and, in most cases, it won’t even cost you a dime!

Here are some other ideas of how you can help whether you are near OR far! 

Lend an Ear

The most important thing you can do for someone who is having a hard time financially is to just sit and let them talk. Let them share with you the anger that they have over their situation, let them cry tears of grief over the struggles they are enduring, and celebrate with them when those times turn around.

Let them talk about what they feel like talking about and try not to push them to tell more than they feel comfortable with. It is a very brave thing to do to open up and tell someone that you are struggling and it takes time and trust for them to want to share this private information with you.

Offer To Babysit

The #1 cause for divorce is money problems. When a spouse is unemployed, particularly the male in the family, it is such a difficult time in a marriage because so much of one’s pride and self-esteem comes from being able to contribute financially to the family.

The best thing you can do to keep that marriage growing strong is offer to support them by babysitting for them. Give the family the time they need to have a date night or just to have time to quietly do some job searching.

If you have the finances to offer a gift card for a night out, that is a wonderful and thoughtful touch. Think of fun budget-friendly things they could do like going bowling, or a gift card to Barnes & Noble for books or coffee, or a gift certificate to the movie theater.

Better yet, supply a gift that they could use for several nights in like a new board game, an electronic game, a Netflix membership, or ingredients for a fun meal that they could make at home. These are simple gifts that could supply many nights of fun for them during a difficult patch in their marriage.

Meals on Wheels

One of my favorite things to do for people during these times is to just drop off a dinner to them or to bring a meal when I come over to spend time with them. Try to make a big batch of food that could get them through one or two nights when money is tight.

If you lack the cooking gene, head over to the supermarket and pick up a take-and-bake pizza, popcorn, and some break-and-bake cookies. These are likely fun food that have been removed from the grocery budget and will be just as much appreciated as a home cooked meal.

Hire the Unemployed

Check around at your own place of unemployment, contact your friends through social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, and tap into as many people in your network as you can to find a job for your loved one. Do your part to get their resume out there!

If you aren’t able to find them a job, consider hiring them for some odds and ends jobs around your house. When one of our family members lost their job, we offered to hire him to remove wallpaper and paint our bathroom. It was a job in our house that we were not looking forward to doing and he was looking for a way to make some extra money. We both felt really good about the project and, in the end, it was the money that helped put the Christmas gifts under their tree. In my opinion, that is a total win-win situation!

Be an Anonymous Giver

Pride gets in the way of sometimes getting the help that someone might need. No one wants to say, “I don’t have money for groceries this month. Can you give me some?”

I have some very prideful people in my life who would never tell me when they were struggling. I have learned that anonymous gifts are sometimes the best kinds of gifts to give in these situations. Mail them a gift card or leave pantry ingredients on their doorstep.

Little Things are Sometimes the Best Things

There are so many little ways that you can help those that are struggling that can add up in big ways. Clean out your pantry and bring over the extra food to someone who is struggling, pick up a movie for them, stock them up on diapers for the baby, buy them detergent or paper products that can typically drain the grocery budget, offer to babysit while they run resumes, pass on your old magazines or books for a sweet little pick-me-up, weed through your children’s clothes and share those hand-me-downs, send them a card that you are thinking of them, pray for them daily, and cheer them up when you talk on the phone.

Even though I don’t like to focus on the negative, here is a little advice on things not to do-

  • Don’t harass them every day to ask if they have found a job yet. Know that you are likely going to be one of the first people that would be contacted and let them talk about their successes when they occur.
  • Don’t criticize their unemployed spouse. As I have said before, marriage is hard when a spouse is unemployed and it is important that you do your best not to contribute to the negativity. Allow them to vent, but don’t fuel the fire.
  • Do your best not to chastise them if they are angry or hurt over what is happening in their lives. Many well-meaning people try to correct anger instead of letting them work through it. Simply saying, “I know this must be tough!” will go a lot further in these situations then correcting their feelings.

As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, you will never know what it will mean to that person to be a steady rock for them to lean on. Try to think beyond yourself and do one nice thing for someone who is struggling (health-wise, financial, job loss, etc..)  today. It will mean more than you will ever know!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. For this project, all compensation was invested in our care package.  My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

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DIY KOOL-AID Slushies

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

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If you have been a reader of mine or have checked out my book, “The Good Life for Less,” I am sure you are familiar with our easy homemade slushies recipe that we use throughout the summer months. Making your own slushies is fun, frugal, and a sweet summertime pastime for my kids. In fact, as soon as school got out, they asked if they could have mom’s infamous homemade slushies to celebrate their last day of school.

easy_kool_aid_slushies_1 The great thing about our easy KOOL-AID slushies is that you can make a different batch every time. We love trying new flavors and now you can find fun ones like watermelon, mixed berry, and even strawberry kiwi.

I am always tweaking my recipes and have tried everything from sugar-free Kool-Aid to make slushies (they did not turn out for us) to reducing the sugar in our slushies to see if the kids notice a taste difference. We decided to drop the sugar to a 1/2 cup in our batch (originally 2/3 cup) and we found that we didn’t notice a big taste difference, but I felt better about sharing this treat with my kids with the lower sugar content.

Do You Have a KOOL-AID Creation To Share?

KOOL AID is working with the Nickelodeon boy band, Big Time Rush (BTR) during their 2013 summer concert tour and would love if you uploaded a unique “KOOL AID Creation” to participate in their fun summertime contest!  Perhaps, you can create your very own slushie creation or other fun project with KOOL-AID?

Walmart shoppers who purchase $6 worth of KOOL AID products can upload an image of their Walmart receipt to the free Shoparoo app on their smart phone or to Shoparoo.com. You will receive a unique code for an exclusive ticket price of $50 for (4) four on Big Time Rush tickets. The ticket purchase can be made at Walmart Ticket Master kiosks, Ticket Master online or through Ticket Master phone orders.

Winners will receive (2) VIP tickets to one of the 37 BTR concerts this summer and an autographed BTR KOOL AID tee , Meet & Greet including photo with the Band.

How fun is that?

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We don’t just love our slushies though, I had to showcase these adorable double-insulated mason travel mugs that Walmart has over in their seasonal section of their store.  Our slushies stayed super cold and there were no worries about slushie spills. I ended up buying four of them for myself, so I could sip a little iced cold iced tea or iced coffee on my patio this summer!

Happy slushie creating!!

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DIY KOOL-AID Slushies
Recipe type: Drinks
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
An easy slushie that you can whip up anytime for a fun treat! Stock up on a variety of KOOL-AID flavors for a variety of slushie fun in your kitchen!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups ice water
  • 1 packet KOOL-AID drink mix (use your favorite flavor)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 cups or 1 full tray of ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Put all of the ingredients into your blender.
  2. Process until well blended.

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