Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crock Pot Chicken Alfredo

I pulled this yummy meal together the other day with random things I found around my kitchen.  I would make a couple of changes for next time, but overall, it was very good!


  • 3 pounds frozen boneless chicken breasts (if yours are thawed, don't cook as long)
  • 2 jars alfredo sauce
  • 1 box frozen spinach (optional... I used it and got feedback from my husband that we could cut back on or skip the spinach... I was not surprised to hear him say this!  I actually thought I could "hide" the spinach in this dish, but clearly it is not hidden.  I suppose it's all up to your personal taste.  I like it with the spinach!)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed (I did not use this and as soon as both my husband and I tasted this we looked at each other and said "This needs garlic!"  We added garlic salt over top, but it would have been yummier cooked in.)
  • My husband also suggested adding some artichokes to this which I thought would be a great idea for next time!  YUM!

(This is just what I did, basically throwing things in as I found them and making it up as I went.  It's easy to be creative with a crock pot, so have fun!)

  • Put frozen chicken in crock pot
  • Pour sauce over top
  • Dump chopped onion on top
  • Put the frozen spinach on top
  • Don't forget your garlic!
  • Cook on low 8-ish hours (I did high for 2 hours, low for 4 hours because I got started late.  Generally, 2 hours on low = 1 hour on high.  Just test the meat with a thermometer to be sure it's done.)
  • I broke up and sort of shredded my chicken in the end but you can do whatever you prefer.
  • Serve over pasta, couscous, or rice.

The 3 pounds of chicken served four adults and one child with plenty of leftovers.  Cut the recipe in half if you need to.  Trying to separate 3 pounds of frozen chicken before cooking is nearly impossible!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Homemade Finger Paints

The impending arrival of a hurricane calls for some new indoor fun!  We get stir crazy very quickly over here with a two year old who would spend all day and night outside if she could.  I found this recipe for homemade finger paints on Pinterest several months ago and decided today was the day to try it.

This stuff is fantastic!!

I was nervous that my daughter wouldn't be too into the idea of finger painting.  We have never tried it before but I find her to be a little sensitive to different textures so I have always figured finger painting would not interest her.  I was very wrong.

The texture of this is kind of goopy, not chunky, not too wet, and it did not stain our fingers.  We used regular paper to paint on and it was just fine.  Leftover paint should be stored in airtight containers and some of the comments on the original blog suggested storage in the fridge as they noticed mold after a few days on the counter.  I have a feeling we might use the rest of ours up this afternoon.

You can find the original recipe here or follow along below:

3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup corn starch
2 cups water

Combine ingredients in small saucepan
Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens (kind of like making gravy)
Cool and scoop into containers
Add food coloring (I bet you could use Kool Aid too!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apple Muffins

I was on a mission yesterday to find a new recipe for another breakfast treat with apples.  My inspiration?  I asked my husband what he would like me to bake.  His response was that I have worked hard and should rest.  My response, knowing that it sometimes feels like rest to bake for my family was that I was baking so he should submit a request... and he did.  Something for breakfast and something with apples.  Most days, baking or cooking up something special for my family is relaxing (not always, but mostly) and rewarding.  It's one of the ways I feel connected to them, one of the ways that I feel I take care of them, and that feels good!  It's one of the ways I take time for today.

So anyway, I found this recipe for Apple Spice Muffins.   These were easy to make and delicious!  I did not find them to have that fall "spice" to them that I was hoping for so I will probably switch some things up next time.  But I will post the recipe below as I followed it this time.

Ingredients for muffins:
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar (plus a pinch)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus a pinch)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground all spice (I used more like 1/4 teaspoon since I already had a feeling these wouldn't be spicy enough)
  • 3 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups apples (peeled, diced)
Ingredients for topping:
  • 2 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line muffin pan with paper cups.
  • Toss apples with a pinch of cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and all spice.
  • Make a well in the flour mixture and add eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla and mix well.
  • Fold in apples.
  • Pour mix into muffin pan, filling each cup about 2/3 full.
  • Stir together butter, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of muffins.
  • Bake for 23-27 minutes until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (I took mine out after 25 minutes).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wax Paper Sun Catchers

As of today, this is our new favorite activity!  My two year old LOVED it and asked if we can do it more later after I prepare more supplies!

Here's what you'll need to make these colorful sun catchers...

  • wax paper
  • scissors
  • crayon shavings in little bowls
  • iron
  • old towel, tshirt, etc to iron on so that you don't get melted crayon all over your table and/or iron (it will get on the towel so don't use your best white one)

And this is what you'll do...

  • Use peeled crayons to make crayon shavings.  I tried using a vegetable peeler but was not too impressed.  It's possible but not as practical as a real crayon sharpener.  I didn't have a freestanding one but eventually found one on the back of a dry erase crayon box.  It did the trick but a regular crayon one would be even better.  Shave different colored crayons into little bowls.  I separated my colors but it really wasn't necessary because they were all combined within minutes.
  • Plug in your iron (out of reach of children).  I used mine on the opposite side of the table, on a towel.
  • Cut shapes out of wax paper.  You'll need two of each to make a crayon shaving sandwich out of them so put two pieces together to cut or if you are making a folded design like a butterfly or heart, fold two pieces of wax paper together so you're actually cutting through four sheets... know what I mean?
  • Give one side of the design to your child to decorate with crayon shavings.
  • Carefully move to the ironing area and cover with the other side of the design.
  • Fold over the towel and iron for 30 seconds or so - maybe more or less depending on how hot your iron is, how many shavings you need to melt, and how big your design is.  Just keeping checking it and when the crayon is melted and the pages are sticking together, it's done.
  • Remove from the towel (careful not to burn your hands) and admire the beautiful creation!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sugar Cookies

I saw an idea for fall colored sugar cookie leaves on Pinterest and knew for sure I would be trying it out.  I was a little disappointed that there was no actual cookie recipe included so I went on a hunt for the very best sugar cookie recipe.  I have tried some in the past but have never really found a favorite.  I hunted online and asked around and when the one I found was the one that a friend also tried and loved, I decided it was the one (thank you, Alicia)!  Here is a link to the original recipe I used.  I cut it in half because I wasn't brave enough to try it all at once and have it be a fail so I will list below what I did.  I was impressed with these and will definitely use this recipe again.  You can make these cookies colored or plain (both are outlined below).

  • 3/4 cup butter softened (take it out earlier in the day so it softens on it's own)
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
  • Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  • Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.

 ** At this point you need to decide if you are making colored dough 
or plain dough.  I say "at this point" because I honestly had not 
decided until I got to this point either! **

If you are going to make colored dough....
  • Flour your hands and the surface you are working on (my dough was really sticky so flour is a must).
  • Split the dough into four equal sections.
  • Add drops of food coloring to each section (I used red, orange (red+yellow), yellow, and green).  I would suggest making four balls and then putting a thumbprint hole in the middle of each one to hold the food coloring.  I found this was the best way to minimize stains on my hands and food coloring dripping all over the place.  It took about 8 drops to get the dough as bright as I wanted it.
  • Put the colored balls in the fridge for one hour.
  • Take them out of the fridge, put pieces of different colors together like a patchwork quilt and roll flat to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Use a floured surface for this.  I'm a huge fan of my pastry cloth and rolling pin cover (thank you, April!) and highly recommend this little invention if you don't have one already!  
  • Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies and place on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 5-6 minutes and remove to cool on wire rack.  Be careful not to overcook.  5 minutes was almost too much and next time I will lower the oven temperature.  You do not want them to be brown.

If you are not going to make colored dough....

  • Cover the dough you made and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.
  • Take dough out of the fridge, and roll flat to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Use a floured surface for this.  (see above for my pastry cloth shout out)                       
  • Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies and place on ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 5-6 minutes and remove to cool on wire rack.  (see above for my time and overcooking disclaimer)

Mix the following together in a bowl and spread over cooled cookies.  If the consistency is off, just add more milk to make it thinner or more sugar to make it thicker.
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • few drops of vanilla (I have no idea how much, just a little, I hardly ever measure!)

I had originally planned that this would be a Mommy-toddler activity but then decided that since I didn't really know how it was going to turn out, I would have it be a Mommy only activity with the exception of the decorating.  I'm glad I made that decision because rolled sugar cookies really aren't an instant gratification kind of cookie and my two year old would have never tolerated the fact that the dough had to sit in the fridge for an hour halfway through or that it was so sticky that I wouldn't have let her touch it.  Saving the decorating for her was a fantastic plan!  She had a blast painting on the icing and sprinkling on the decorations.  She only ate a few cookies along the way... double and tripled dipped in icing after the first lick, of course.  And then, for the grand finale, while I was putting the finished cookies away she mixed all the sugar decorations into the icing... YUM!  (never turn your back on a two year old!!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My favorite recipe for Boneless Chicken Tenders and Boneless Pork Chops

This is one of those recipes that is just in my recipe book and I have no idea where it came from.  It was initially meant to be for Boneless Pork Chops but I actually use the same thing for those and Boneless Chicken Tenders.  It's very easy and has never failed me so I don't think there is much room for error!  Nothing fancy, but very yummy.  Enjoy!

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 6 thin cut boneless pork chops (or a package of boneless chicken tenders)
  • (just add more or less ingredients depending on how much you are cooking)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Dip meat in egg/spice mixture
  • Coat with breadcrumbs
  • Brown in oil
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness of meat (use a meat thermometer to be sure they are cooked enough, chicken is going to take longer than pork - maybe even up to 45 minutes - 1 hour depending on how much you are cooking and how thick the pieces are)

Like I said, I have never had a problem with this recipe however my father tells me he does not like this method because he always burns the meat in the frying pan.  Just add more oil if the pan is getting dry (I use more than 3 tablespoons by the end, for sure) and don't turn up the heat too high.  It only takes a minute on each side, just to make them a little bit crispy, barely browned.  They will cook in the oven.

I've also used this recipe with chicken breasts cut up into bite size pieces - I call them chicken bites.  They are another family favorite!

Let me know how yours turn out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blackberry Yogurt Muffins

I have found myself with a surplus of Blackberry Yogurt and I decided to embark on a search for a recipe to use some up.  I came across this recipe for Strawberry Yogurt Muffins and although I didn't have the fresh fruit to add to mine today, I decided to give it a go with my Blackberry Yogurt.  Success!  This is a very easy, versatile recipe.  Give it a try!

Here is what I did...

Ingredients for muffins:
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blackberry yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Ingredients for glaze:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons milk

Instructions for muffins:
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees
  • Line a muffin pan with paper liners
  • In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt
  • In a small bowl whisk together yogurt, egg, melted butter
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined
  • Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean
Instructions for glaze:
  • Stir together powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk
  • Add more milk if too thick or more sugar if too thin
  • Drizzle over cooled muffins

Friday, October 19, 2012

Great Coffee. Good Vibes. Pass It On.

Yesterday I received some samples of Green Mountain Fair Trade Coffee in the mail as a part of one of the most recent BzzAgent Campaigns for which I was chosen!  Talk about exciting mail!

October is Fair Trade month.  Prior to this campaign, I had no idea what that even meant but I've been studying up.  I've learned that basically when we purchase items that are Fair Trade Certified, we are supporting the countries from which they came.  Fair Trade gets coffee farmers a fair price for their beans, improves their working conditions, assists in protecting the environment, supports community development, and ultimately helps them invest in better quality coffee which of course in turn benefits the coffee drinkers.

We are obviously not purchasing directly from the farmers themselves but when we purchase Fair Trade Certified coffee we know that the companies that have manufactured it have not only paid a fair base price for the coffee but have paid a community development premium as well.  In the end, we get better coffee and those that have farmed those coffee beans get a better life.  It's a win-win.  As someone who has visited many different countries throughout the world, the thought of helping community development and improving quality of life for people that are working very hard is pretty significant to me.

From my Green Mountain Fair Trade samples so far, I have tried Wild Mountain Blueberry (tastes like a fresh blueberry pie) and Vermont Country Blend (smooth as can be).  Prior to this I've tried Island Coconut at a friends house (unbelievably delicious) and Pumpkin Spice here at home ('tis the season).  My mom drinks Columbian Fair Trade Select every day.  This coffee is great!

You can learn more about Fair Trade on the Green Mountain Coffee facebook page and if you watch a short video you can access some free samples and coupons for yourself!

Click here to read my original post about BzzAgent and other great product sampling and review programs!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fun Food for Halloween

I love creating fun foods!  Special occasions and holidays get my creative juices and my internet searches flowing to find just the right treats ~ ones that not only taste great, but bring a smile to my family's face.  Here are some of my Halloween favorites.  There are tons of ideas out there.  Find one you love and make a special treat for (or better yet, with) your family today!

Nutter Butter Ghosts


Nutter Butter Cookies

White Chocolate Candy Wafers or White Chocolate Chips

Mini Chocolate Chips, Black Icing, Mini M&M's, or whatever you want to use for eyes


Melt wafers or white chocolate chips according to package directions.  Be careful not to heat too long or it will harden and be impossible to use.

Dip cookies in white chocolate or spread on cookies (I spread - much faster, neater, easier!)

Attach mini chocolate chip eyes while chocolate is still wet.

Let sit to harden.

Rice Krispie Treat Pumpkins


Rice Krispies



Orange Food Coloring

Black Licorice


Follow directions for Rice Krispie Treats on cereal box

Add drops of orange food coloring for pumpkin color

Form into pumpkin shapes while still warm

Attach licorice for stems

You may need to keep reforming them a bit because they tend to slump a bit until they are cooled

A lot of fancier recipes for these have started to circulate more recently but these are simple and easy.  I will probably add faces this year at the very least!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins and Pumpkin Pancakes

Apples and pumpkins are probably my favorite cooking ingredients at this time of year.  Here are a couple of my favorite pumpkin recipes.  I post them together because one can of pumpkin is all you will need to make both together!  I actually found the pancake recipe by searching online for a recipe that used just the amount of pumpkin I had leftover from the muffin recipe.  Both of these recipes are amazing and I wouldn't change a thing from the original recipes (I will include the links below).

Pumpkin Muffins

(original recipe can be found here)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from 15 ounce can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Put liners in muffin cups

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth

Whisk in the flour and baking powder mixture until just combined

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl

Divide batter among muffin cups (about 3/4 full)

Sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar mixture

Bake 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean

Cool in pan for five minutes and then transfer from pan to cooling rack

Pumpkin Pancakes
(original recipe can be found here)

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in medium bowl
Whisk together milk, pumpkin, and eggs in separate bowl
Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until incorporated
Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls onto a hot, buttered griddle
Cook for a couple of minutes before flipping to cook the other side
Repeat with remainder of batter
Serve with butter and maple syrup

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homemade Play Dough

I guarantee to you that once you make your own play dough at home, you will never go back to store bought again!  Homemade is just all around better.  Here are a couple of my current favorite play dough recipes...

Kool-Aid Play Dough
(original recipe can be found here)

1 cup flour (I used extra)
1 cup boiling water (be careful of little hands!)
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup salt
1 packet of Kool-Aid (I used Tropical Punch)

Mix all ingredients except water
Add the water and mix thoroughly
Knead together, adding more flour if necessary
Store in a ziplock bag or plastic container

This recipe is great!  It uses Kool-Aid for scent and color and does not call for cream of tarter (I was looking for this specifically because we were almost out).  This play dough smells amazing, has bright color, and is perfectly squishy!  I added about a half cup more flour after mixing in the original cup because it was a bit too sticky.

Play Dough
(original recipe can be found here)

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
food coloring (about 4 drops)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan
Once the mixture is mostly clump free, heat over medium heat
Stir constantly until the dough starts to stick together into one big clump (it doesn't take long)
Remove from heat and knead by hand
Once it's cool enough for little hands, it's ready to go!
Store in a ziplock bag or plastic container

I have made this recipe all one color and multiple colors.  If you cook up everything without the food coloring, you can separate out your dough after cooking and add a few drops to each separate ball and knead the color in at that point.  I wasn't crazy about the nasty brownish color that was left after all the colored dough was played with and squished together but I didn't have the heart to require my child to not mix them up while playing.  So, now we just stick to one color at a time.

I actually think this is probably my favorite recipe but the next time I make it I will use Kool-Aid in place of food coloring so I can have the best of both worlds.  The scented dough is so wonderful but the texture of this recipe really is great and it uses less salt and less oil.  If you don't have cream of tarter, stick with the first recipe.  I have read that you can substitute vinegar for cream of tarter but it will obviously change the smell of your dough.

Have fun!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Melted Crayon Drawings

Drawing with melting crayons is a simple but great activity that takes just a little bit of preparation, and only if you don't already have your crayons separated out and peeled.  We now just peel the paper from all of our broken crayons and store them all together for activities like this.

Here's what to do:

Remove the paper from your crayons.

Heat a plate in the microwave or under hot water.  I start at 30 seconds in the microwave but typically have to heat a bit more.  Just don't do a long time at once.

Draw on the plate with the crayons.

The crayons melt as you draw with them, slipping and sliding, and making very fun colors!

I really love this activity and I thought my daughter loved it too but I will admit that after one or two times doing it, she now refuses it every time I offer.  I'm not exactly sure why, but apparently it is not one of her favorites.  Regardless, it still comes highly recommended!

A couple of notes:

Of course you will need to be careful not to give your child a plate that is so hot it is going to burn them so test it out yourself first.  It should be very warm, but not hot.  If the crayons aren't melting well, put the plate in the microwave for a few more seconds.  The warmer the plate, the brighter the colors and easier the drawing/painting.

The crayon should wash off the plate with soap and hot water when you are done but if you have little grooves or scratches in your plate, it might take a little scrubbing.  I tested a plate first just in case!

I originally read about this activity here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple Pie Oatmeal in the Crock Pot

We really enjoyed our apple picking trip to Parlee Farms this year (thank you Amy for the recommendation!).  It was a very fun place with gigantic apples, tons of pumpkins, yummy treats, lots of animals and a very fun hay play area!  It didn't take long to pick the apples because with them being so big the bag filled up in no time at all.  But, it was a perfect outing with a 2 year old for sure.

I used up the last of our apple picking apples on this delicious recipe.  Well, all except one apple.  I saved the one that is absolutely perfect and wish I could just preserve it to look at!  Isn't it amazing?  Leaf and all!  I picked that one myself!

Anyway, I made this breakfast recipe last night in preparation for today.  My husband eats breakfast at 4:30 in the morning and as much as I love him, there was slim to no chance that I was getting up at 2:00 to prepare this.  But the thought of some hearty warm oatmeal to start his day was worth making it the night before and warming it over this morning and it tastes great!

I found this recipe here at Kalyn's Kitchen.  I found my favorite, previously shared Sausage Soup recipe on the same blog so as soon as I found this I knew it was going to be a success!

I doubled the recipe so I'll list below what I did.  I will be honest that I did not do any fancy math or conversions so I'm sure there may be a better way to list these ingredients but oh well...


4 large apples, seeds removed and coarsely chopped, no need to peel them) - I used gigantic apples so you may need to add more

6 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

6 cups water (more if you like thinner oatmeal)

3 cups rolled oats (I used Old Fashioned Quaker Oats)


Cut apples into pieces (original recipe suggests cutting them into different sizes so some will dissolve while others stay chunky).  My apples were pretty chunky so I'll probably cut about half of them a bit smaller next time.  They really don't get mushy with the short cooking time.

Spray crock pot with nonstick spray.

Add the apples, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.

Add 6 cups of water (a little more if you want your oatmeal more runny, mine was pretty thick).

Stir together and cook on high for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Add oatmeal and stir.

Cook on high for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes depending on how soft you want your oatmeal to be.  I cooked mine for an hour.

Serve warm.

I stored mine in the fridge and heated bowlfuls in the microwave for about a minute.  You can add a little water to the bowl before heating if the oatmeal seems too thick.  You could also heat in a pan on the stove if you prefer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cash Back When You Shop!

I'm sure many of you have already started thinking about your holiday shopping this year and some of you may already be done (definitely not me)!  Last year we learned about a great program that gives you cash back for shopping and we were able to get a portion of what we paid on holiday gifts back in a check!  Not only did we get money back, we saved ourselves the annoyance of standing in lines and searching through shelves in crowded stores.  I know some of you are totally into this chaos, but I'm kind of done with it after one trip and would be just fine doing the rest of my holiday shopping from home!

Ebates is a website that connects you with the website of the store you want to shop and if you make your purchase through their link, you will get a percentage back.  These percentages fluctuate.  Sometimes it might be 1% or 2%, sometimes there will be a promotion where you will get double cash back, etc.  They also show you any coupon codes available (such as a percentage off or free shipping). You can make your purchase online by connecting to your store through their website and either have the items shipped to you or pick up in the store.  We did online purchases through Ebates and in-store pick-up for most of our gifts last year and were very pleased to get a portion of the money we spent back in our pockets at the end of the season!

Ebates works with tons of stores including Sears, Babies R Us, Toys R Us, Amazon, Sephora, JC Penny, Kohl's, Home Depot,, Groupon, Walmart, you name it, so you are sure to find your favorites.  Membership is totally free.  You simply get paid cash back for shopping (by check or paypal).  You will also each get a $5 bonus from when you make your first purchase.

There is nothing to lose with this program.  Anytime I am making a purchase I try to remember to check Ebates first to see if the store has an account with them and go through them to earn a little extra back.  We're not talking millions of dollars here (unless you are spending millions of dollars I suppose) but every little bit makes a difference.

Click here to sign up for Ebates today!

As an aside, I would give the following recommendations regarding in-store pick-up...
  • Check your items before you leave.  I had to go back to Sears twice last year due to a broken item and a missing piece to another item that I would have noticed right away if I had checked them out before I left.  That was kind of a hassle but probably no worse than standing in long lines.  
  • Make your Toys R Us purchases ASAP!  Do not wait until the middle of December!  We stood in line for AGES and then had to wait for the guys to bring our stuff up from the back.  Now granted, it was also a weekend if I remember correctly - very poor planning on my part.  I suppose we would have stood in line for a while and had to weed through other crazy parents if we were browsing the store as well but this was nuts.  Probably like 2 hours waiting.  If you order through Toys R Us / Babies R Us and are given the option to pick up at one or the other, definitely choose Babies R Us.  

Easiest and Yummiest Apple Crisp

Every fall I find myself searching for and trying many different recipes with apples but we always come to the conclusion that the best fall dessert is the tried and true apple crisp!  I actually have no idea where this recipe came from as it has just been in my recipe book for as long as I can remember.  If I ever find the source, I will be sure to give credit where credit is due.  I don't think I will ever try another apple crisp recipe because this one is so delicious and so easy.  The only downside is that it never lasts more than a day or two around here.  I imagine you will have the same problem...

  • 8 apples - peeled, cored, sliced (if you have gigantic apples like I did this week, you can use 4... you'll know where there is enough in the pan)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter

  • Place sliced apples in a buttered baking dish
  • Mix white sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over apples
  • Blend brown sugar, flour, and butter together for topping (I usually soften the butter a bit - not melted - and then just use my hands to squish it all up until it's combined)
  • Sprinkle over top of cinnamon sugar apples
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown

Of course I think this tastes best served warm and you can add some cool whip or ice cream if you're in the mood.  Coffee on the side is also definitely recommended!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Baking Soda and Vinegar Bubbles

I'm sure most of you have heard of science experiments such as making volcanos with baking soda and vinegar.  Well, our daughter loves this little activity and will work at it for quite a long time without getting bored.  We call it "bubbles."

Just put some baking soda in a dish or tray.
Drop some food coloring in small bowls with vinegar.
Combine the two any way you'd like, and enjoy the fizzy bubbles!
We use spoons to drop the vinegar into the baking soda but a medicine dropper would work too (that was a little bit too complicated for us to figure out how to use at this age).
Beware that if you put the baking soda into the bowl of vinegar instead of the other way around, your fizzy bubbles will be totally fantastic but will most certainly overflow so be ready for a mess!

After a while, when the baking soda is totally saturated, the bubbles no longer work but then we have a great dish full of goopy yuckiness that is perfect for pretend cooking so we usually break out some measuring cups and extra water to finish up our play.

Have fun!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

It's chilly outside and time to dust off your crock pot if you haven't already!  I made this very yummy recipe last week, adapted from the recipe found here at Crockin' Girls.  I doubled their recipe and added some extras.  We served ours over plain couscous because that is what we had instead of rice and also served with nacho chips.  You could also use this as taco meat.  Next time I think I'll add a sliced onion and some beans as well.

If you don't have a crock pot, you should definitely get one!  They are not too pricey and the relief of being able to just throw all of your ingredients in it first thing in the morning and know that dinner is already done by breakfast is priceless.

Here's how I made our Salsa Chicken...

  • 3-4 pounds frozen chicken breasts (don't even have to be thawed!!)
  • 2 packages taco seasoning
  • 2 cans cream of "something" soup (original recipe calls for mushroom but I think I used a chicken and a celery)
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 1 can corn (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (optional, I used quesadilla but you could use anything, I just happened to have this type and this amount in the fridge)
  • 1 cup sour cream

  • Put chicken in the bottom of the crock pot.
  • Mix the taco seasoning, soup, salsa, corn and cheese in a bowl and pour over chicken.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours.
  • Stir up to break up/shred the chicken.
  • Mix in sour cream just before serving.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Glade Expressions

One of the most recent products we've had the chance to try out through BzzAgent (see my post here on trying new products for free) is the Glade Expressions product line.  Glade has embraced the idea that not only should air fresheners smell good, they should look good too!  Industrial looking aerosol containers just don't fit into the decor of most modern day homes, right?  Well Glade Expressions do.  You can see above that both the Fragrance Mist and the Oil Diffuser are pleasing to the eye and kind of have a decorative appeal to them.

Beyond the look though (because I don't really care too much about that to be honest), the scents of these things are amazing.  There are four that you can choose from: Cotton & Italian Mandarin, Fuji Apple & Cardamom Spice, Lavender & Juniper Berry, and Pineapple & Mangosteen.  YUM!  All of the above.  I love them all and my favorite changes depending on my mood.  The scent is lasting and not at all offensive (those industrial looking and smelling flowery ones give me a headache).

We have loved trying and sharing these Glade products and I would definitely recommend them to anyone in the market for air fresheners!  You can get more info on the Glade website here.  BzzAgent has given me coupons to share and I have links to them below along with a deal idea you could use at Target.  Enjoy!

There is a $2 printable coupon here for the Fragrance Mist
and a $1 printable Target store coupon here ($1 off Glade Air Care Item)
You can use both a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon together and since these are priced at $2.99 the use of both coupons together makes it FREE!

There is a $4 printable coupon here for the Oil Diffuser
and the same $1 printable Target store coupon here ($1 off Glade Air Care Item)
These are priced at $5.99 so .99 after both coupons

There is also a deal at Target right now that if you purchase a Fragrance Mist or an Oil Diffuser you get a refill free automatically (the signs are right on the shelf) so pick up one of those for each starter kit you get as well!  Start printing, friends!

Remember that you can print each coupon two times per computer.

Try new products for free!

I love being able to try new things... most especially when they are free!  Manufacturers will often use marketing companies to help them get the word out to consumers when new products come out or when they want to give the popularity of their products a little boost.  These companies are looking for feedback and word of mouth marketing from consumers.  They want you to try and love their stuff, buy it, and get others to do the same!

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here is a sampling of some of the products our family and friends have had the opportunity to try through these programs:
Infant/Children's Advil
Bic Markers
Bic Razors
Knorr Homestyle Chicken Stock
Energy Drinks
Frozen Fish
Baby Wash
Kleenex Hand Towels
Coffee Creamer
Glade Air Fresheners (you can read about my Bzz Campaign here)
Poland Spring Water/Delivery Service
Burt's Bees Intense Hydration Face Care Line

I am a member of several different programs and if you are not signed up for these, I highly recommend it!  Some require a little more follow through than others.  All of them select only a portion of their applicants for each trial so don't be disappointed if you don't get chosen.  Keep trying and participating how you can.  It's fun and a great opportunity to try new things for free.  You can read about the ins and outs of each program on their websites but if you have more questions, let me know!  I'm also happy to email you referral links if you are interested.  Most companies reward you for inviting your friends to join the fun as well!

House Party

Be on the lookout for some new blog posts with reviews on some of the most recent products we've gotten the chance to check out!

Iced and Spiced Applesauce Cookies

We have finally finished off the last of the applesauce!  We made these cookies the other day and I have one last batch of fruit roll ups cooking now.  I have to see that I was a little sad to see it go, but it was certainly time and there will be more deals around the corner.

Before I post the recipe for these cookies, I need to tell you about another bit of VERY useful information I found as I prepared this recipe.  I can't believe that I didn't already know this and you probably already do, but just in case, I will share it here.  Did you know that you can soften up hardened brown sugar by putting it in the microwave for one minute with a little bowl of water next to it?  It's true!!  Mine was not quite soft enough to break apart after one minute but another 15-30 seconds did the trick.  Just be careful because if you heat it too long it's going to be hot when you touch it.

Anyway, these cookies are YUMMY!  My daughter loved them and quickly decided they should be called "Daddy Cookies."  Good thing Daddy loved them too!

I found the recipe at The Spiffy Cookie, followed it, and will post it here!

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup shortening
3 teaspoons water
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves; set aside.
In a stand mixer (or medium bowl), cream together the shortening, water, and brown sugar.
Add egg, and then applesauce to the mixture; beat until creamy.  (mine was more goopy but it worked!)
Mix in dry ingredients.
Drop on cookie sheet by round tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 minutes and cool on rack.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a small bowl combine confectioners' sugar, milk, and cinnamon.
Add milk as needed to achieve drizzling consistency (a little goes a long way!!).
Drizzle over cooled cookies.

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