Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wooden Holiday Blocks

I know, I know. . . A craft? On a cooking blog? Especially when the last post wasn't about cooking either?
I'm sorry! I PROMISE I will post about some super yummy Bread Bowls later tonight or tomorrow morning, but for now- a craft.

I signed up for Craftaholics Anonymous' Handmade Gift Exchange and was paired up with Selena in Texas! Selena, this is a SPOILER ALERT!!! I'm about to post pictures of your gift, but it won't be in the mail until tomorrow, so DON'T LOOK! :D

I really had a hard time thinking of a craft to make! I wanted it to be useful, versatile, something that I would want, and something to go along with with this holiday season. I finally had the idea for wooden blocks. My original idea involved around 15-16 blocks, but then I realized how big that would be. And how much it would cost to ship. Sooo, I changed my mind. There are 10 blocks. The first side simply says "Halloween."
 Of course, then you just turn it a quarter turn, and it says "Give Thanks" for Thanksgiving. (Thanksgiving is a LONG word!)
Turn it one more quarter turn, and you have "Christmas!" (The lighting didn't seem to be cooperating for this picture)
I had planned on doing something New Year's related on the last side of the blocks, but my mom had to cut her visit up here short and left with her Cricut before I could figure everything out. I had cut out the letters for "Happy New Year," but I didn't have enough blocks for that! So, I left it blank in case Selena wants to choose her own holiday/word/occasion to put on the last side! Something for New Years, Valentine's Day, Independence Day or what have you. I chose these holidays because they are all so close to each other! No need to put the blocks away and get them back out! Bring out the blocks in October for Halloween. Then turn them once November hits for Thanksgiving. And then turn them again for Christmas once December comes around!
I hope you like them Selena! Thanks for being my awesome partner!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not About Food. . .

I know this is a cooking blog, but there is more to life than food, right?!
Over the past couple years, i've had a few friends ask me about what kinds of little things I do to earn a little extra money or to receive free things.
Well, here I am to tell you!
I think most stay-at-home mommas have felt some kind of guilt about buying things for themselves (even if it's something we truly need!) because we are not the ones going into the workplace and earning an income.
I do these things to help alleviate some of that guilt. :)

Online Surveys
There are MANY survey sites out there that promise you all kinds of cash and rewards for filling out surveys, but how can you know that they are legit? Well, to get you started, here are a few sites that I have been using for 2-3 years now, never once had a problem with, and have received many rewards from including:
Gift Cards
Magazine Subscriptions
Some of the sites have a lot of different rewards as well, but these are typically the ones I choose.

I would say that since I first joined 2 1/2 years ago, i've earned almost $100 from this site. When I first joined, you needed less points to redeem for a $10 check to be mailed to you, but it's still not too much. I've actually switched to getting $10 Amazon.com gift cards because I am obsessed with Amazon, but they have a huge variety of other rewards to choose from.
I get sent about 3-4 surveys a week to my email and each one has varying point values. If you don't end up "qualifying" for a survey, you will still receive 5 points no matter what. Sometimes they will send out "diary" type surveys where you keep track of every beverage you consume for a week, just for example, and then log them in the survey diary. I've done that one twice now and got 400 points for each.
Oh, and I just remembered that about a year ago, I won a $50 Amazon.com gift card from them!

This one is awesome because it tells you an actual dollar amount for how much each survey is worth. I actually got one in my email today that is a survey worth $3 if I qualify and complete it. You will want to do these surveys as soon as you receive them though, because their quota's fill up and you may not qualify for the survey.
I've probably earned about $60-$70 from this site, but I don't do survey's as often as I could. They also have a great referral program where you earn money from every survey completed by one of your referrals. The rewards are only money, mailed out in a check, but there's nothing wrong with that! I actually just checked my account and saw that I had $17.50 in there and requested a payment. :)

If you are a couponer, you may have heard about this site. TheKrazyCouponLady posts about it quite often, actually. I do like this site, although I like the above two Survey sites more. There are a LOT of people that use this one and it is definitely legit. I think i've earned around $50 on this site over the years. You need higher points to redeem for rewards (for example, about 1100 points will get you $10 on MySurvey, but 5000 points will only get you $5 on Synovate.) If you are diligent in taking surveys, it shouldn't take too long to rack up points, though. In general, these surveys are more enjoyable/visually appealing than other sites. I've also received product samples in the mail from here to test out and then fill out a survey for (a new variety of Pringles, 2 full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner, for example). They don't have a referral program, unfortunately, and sometimes they aren't open for new panelists, but it's worth it to try!

I saved this one for last because it is the site that I use the least. They have LOTS of surveys for you to take, but most of the time I don't seem to qualify or the surveys just become so repetitive that my mind starts to explode. Haha! It's m own fault I don't tend to qualify though, because I wait too long to take the surveys. The thing that I love about this site though is that 1000 points equals $50!!! Yes, you read that right! Come to think of it, I should really be using this site a lot more. Lol.

Online Communities
These are websites that you usually need an invitation to join. Luckily, through survey sites (most often through SurveySavvy actually) i've been invited to quite a few communities. These sites usually offer money incentives for active participators on their site. Some of the communities haven't really kept my interest enough for me to stick around (like one site was for Trident gum and another for Pepsi) but I was recently invited to a community called Our Voices (a mommy site) which paid me $5 to my PayPal account just for registering, and then if I participate in at least one discussion or poll question per week, I receive $15 a month to my PayPal account. Yeah!
An awesome Online Community that anyone can join, however, is VocalPoint. They have all sorts of things on the site, from recipes to articles to message boards, but they also give out free samples of things quite often. A lot of times, if you are active on the site, they will send you products for no reason and simply ask you to give them some feedback. Most recently I received one of the new full-size Swiffer 360 Dusters to try out and filled out a 2 minute questionnaire about what I thought.

Daily Deal Sites
Although these don't necessarily help me "earn" any money, they have saved me money on some awesome things such as photographers, home decor, weekend getaways with my hubby, gifts, great deals on new restaurants to try, and more. Many of these sites also have rewards programs where you earn some money back from each deal that you buy, or referal programs and incentives when you sign up. Here are just  couple of my favorites:

This is probably my favorite daily deal site. You earn Save Rewards on almost every thing that you buy. The Save Rewards will vary, but sometimes they amount to as high as $10! They will even send out special emails with Save Rewards in them occasionally. I have purchased 4 deals with them over the last few months and have not been disappointed. I have earned $27 in Save Rewards and can use them almost any deal that I want. Most recently I purchased a deal that was $39 for a photographer that would travel to any location you like from Ogden-Provo here in Utah and give you a CD with every image. Now, this was a GREAT deal on it's own, but I used $12 in Save Rewards and only paid $27! Amazing!

Plum District
Honestly, I'm still fairly new to this site, but have loved it so far! The deals are usually pretty good and mostly geared toward moms. One deal that I did participate in that brought me to this site was amazing. They did a promotion where if you referred 3 friends (the friends didn't even have to buy anything) than you got a free $20 Target gift card. I found my 3 friends, and got my gift card in the mail a week later. If you sign up through my link above, you will also start out with $5 to spend towards any deal!

I've also used LivingSocial (which, if you buy a deal and share it with your friends, and 3 of your friends also purchase the deal, you get it for free!), Groupon (this is where I got an AWESOME deal on Yo Gabba Gabba tickets using a $10 credit that I had saved!), and SLC DailyDeal.

If you haven't heard of Swagbucks, where have you been?!?! Basically, this is a website where you earn "swag bucks" for doing various things on the internet. The easiest way is to simply use Swagbucks as your search engine. It is powered by Google, so it is set up similar to Google and has similar search results. You can install their toolbar or install an add-on in your browser so that your default search engine is Swagbucks. How many of us search for random things during the day, right? Randomly, one of your searches will reward you with swag bucks! The amount can range from 5 sb all the way up to 50 sb! (Sorry, sb stands for swag bucks.) You can also earn through surveys, referrals, entering swag codes that they hide on their website (I use SBCodez to tell me when there is a new swag code), answering poll questions, playing games, and even printing out and using coupons! The same coupons you would find on coupons.com!!!! They have tons of different rewards, but I always, without fail, will spend 450 sb on a $5 Amazon.com gift card. Since I started using SwabBucks in June of 2010, I have earned $120 in Amazon gift cards. Oh yeah! Plus, every sb that one of your referrals earn, you get the exact same amount.

I hope this has helped some of you! The great thing about many of these sites is that you can do them on your downtime. I generally take surveys and things during naps or after putting Katie to bed. I love getting free things in the mail to try, or a $10 gift card that I can use for gifts or just to treat myself every once in a while.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

I had an idea a couple days ago. Miniature Chicken Pot Pies. After some thorough web-browsing, I could NOT find what I was looking for! Doesn't anyone know what "mini" means?! All I found were recipes for pot pies in ramekins or a regular muffin tin. No, no, no. That wasn't enough for me. I wanted these guys to be SMALL! Or should I say small. So I set out on my own, blazing the trail for teeny-tiny chicken pot pies. (I'm sure other people have made these before, but I sure couldn't find a recipe!)

Mini Chicken Pot Pies
Printable Recipe
2 Refrigerated Pie Crusts (because this was essentially an experiment, I went with what was easy rather than making everything from scratch)
About 1 1/2 Cups Cubed Cooked Chicken (I used leftover chicken from a roast i'd made a few days earlier)
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Cup Chicken Broth (or Homemade Stock)
1 Cup Frozen Corn
1 Cup Frozen Peas
Salt and Pepper

Add your cream of chicken soup to a pot. Doesn't that look gross? Oh well.
Add your chicken broth.
Now comes the chicken!
Corn. Mmmm. I think I like white corn better than yellow corn. (Did you notice I switched to a bigger pot? Hahaha!)
Peas!!!! My favorite!!!!
Now mix it all up, set the heat to medium-low and move on. . .
At this point, you can start preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Grab a mini muffin tin. Yes, the one with the super small little cups! Also, get one of your pie crusts ready.
Roll out your crust just until it's a bit thinner. Notice anything amazingly awesome in this picture?
(A HUGE thank you to my MIL Debbie for this awesome rolling pin and pastry mat!)
So, I don't really have any cookie cutters. Instead I used a cup for the base of the pot pies and a little baby food jar lid for the top crust. :)
Get as many circles as you need. This recipe can make about 36-48 mini pot pies, so use both pie crusts, and re-roll the scraps to get as many as you need. For my little family of 2 1/2, I only made 12 pies and used the second pie crust to make two much larger pot pies in ramekins to keep in the freezer.
 Fill your mini muffin tin with the pie crusts, and then fill those up with about 1 Tablespoon of filling each. Try not to overfill them. I learned this the hard way.
 There! Aren't they so cute?! But we're not done yet!
Put on the top crusts, just kind of pinching it down around the sides. This is where overfilling can become a problem. Grab a knife and cut a couple little slits in the top of each crust.
Stick these cuties in the oven for 20-25 minutes. When they come out, it might look like a miniature pot pie massacre. Again, not overfilling can help to correct this. :D
 It's prettttttty messy.
 However, once you grab a knife and pop these guys out of the battlefield, they won't look quite so bad!
 They might actually look super, super, SUPER yummy.

Extra notes: My husband and I each ate about 5 and were full! Well, we had some side dishes as well, but these little dudes are actually fairly filling.  Our little one wouldn't touch her's at first and didn't eat a bite until after the hubs and I had finished off all the rest. Of course, she ended up loving it and probably would have eaten more, but she waited too long! I made the filling really simple, but you can easily add whatever you like! Small chunks of potatoes, carrots, onion, parsley or thyme. If you want a more "golden" looking finish, you can brush egg whites over the top of the crusts just before putting them in the oven.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Two Ingredient Ice Cream

 HEY!!!! It's ME!!! Your long lost blogging buddy!!! How have you been?!?!
Ok, I know it's been a while. You know when life just gets super crazy and you don't have time for anything? Yeah, that's not what happened. Sure, things were a bit busy for a while (Yo Gabba Gabba Live, my mom visiting, shopping, church, Breaking Dawn, etc. . . ) but in truth, I just haven't made anything worthy of posting on here lately!
I did, however, enlist my husband to help me make this SUPER easy ice cream a while ago that I wanted to share. It is by no means a "real recipe" but it sure is fun, easy, and, I think, a great idea for some kind of sleepover/party type thing. Just sayin'.

Here goes!
Two Ingredient Ice Cream
I know, there are three ingredients here. Shh!

Heavy Whipping Cream
Sweetened Condensed Milk

Optional- Toppings. I have Vanilla pictured here.
 We only made a half batch, so you need one cup of whipping cream and pour it into a bowl. Pretty simple if you ask me.
 I started hand whipping, because i'm a crazy person, while my hubby measured out half of the can of sweetened condensed milk. How much did it end up being, hubs? I dunno. It was half the can.
 Once it's beautiful and fluffy, you are done! Don't keep going. It will start to turn into butter!
 Now, add your sweetened condensed milk.
 This is where you can add your toppings OR you can wait a few minutes and a couple steps below. I decided to add a tsp of Vanilla at this point.
 Now just fold it all together.
If you taste it at this point, it tastes like melted ice cream.
 Now choose whatever container you like. I love to use my little smushed-looking mason jars. You can also use Pyrex dishes, plastic tupperware, or whatever. Pour some in there, but leave an inch or two at the top.
 Now this is where you may add your toppings if you like. It's fun to make it a little more personalized. For a sleepover, you can just have a little buffet of yummy things (crushed oreos, snickers, fudge, caramel, brownie pieces, cookie dough, andes mints, etc. . . ) and add some to your little ice cream cup and just mix them in. For the hubster we added some Reese's. I kept mine plain. I am boring.
 Ready! Stick them in the freezer overnight or for at least 6 hours.
 Take it out and enjoy just how freaking creamy this stuff is!

Extra notes: Please!!! Experiment!!! Add cocoa powder or chocolate syrup for chocolate ice cream. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger. Try donut pieces and pastries. Add cake mix. Add streusel and baked apples. Have fun! I found this recipe on another website, but now I can't find it! I'll come back and add a link once I can figure out where this came from.
Oh, and sorry the pictures aren't fab. We made these at 11 o'clock at night. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mini Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf

You know, I was going to share a meatloaf recipe here, but here's the thing about meatloaf: Everyone has a favorite. Some like it super juicy, some more dry, some with more ketchup, some with BBQ sauce, the list goes on. So here, I am just going to show you a DIFFERENT way to serve up whatever YOUR favorite kind of meatloaf is. Ok? Good!

Grab your stuff. When I make meatloaf, I tend to just throw whatever in there. Makes things easy. You will need bacon though. Don't forget it!
Here, I used:
1 lb grass-fed ground beef from a local family farm (Can you hear me up here on my soapbox? Lol)
Some ketchup
A couple eggs
Some bread crumbs (saltine crackers are the normal route I take, however)
A clove or two of minced garlic
Half an onion (I REALLY wish I had only used a quarter. Seriously)
Salt and pepper
You will also need a muffin tin. Whaaaat?!
First fry up your bacon. Plop some in a cold pan, turn it to medium-low, and just let it do it's thang. We don't want to cook it all the way, though! No, no! Just about halfway done.
Oh, and preheat your oven to 375.
In the meantime, add all your ingredients to a bowl.
Yeah, I put WAY too many onions in there. I think i'll stick to my typical onion powder for next time. I just needed to use up this onion, ok?!
Ketchup! I just squirted it in there for a bit.
Eggs and everything else.
Now's the fun part. Moosh it all together! Don't use a spoon. What's the point in making meatloaf if you don't get to relive your childhood and squish your hands through that raw meaty mixture? :)
Check your bacon. Mine looks about halfway done, I guess. It doesn't have to be perfect.
Move em to a paper-towel covered plate to soak up the excess drippings.
Once they've cooled off for a minute, you can cut them in half! This isn't totally necessary. You'll see why.
Now, grab a handful of your meatloaf mixture and roll it into a ball.
Spray your pan with a little cooking spray, and then set that little guy right into the muffin cup thing. Here's where the fun begins. You can either drape a piece of bacon over the top. . .
. . . or wrap the bacon around the ball!
I did a few different things, and then one plain one. Just experiment! Pop these into the oven for 30-35 minutes. During the last few minutes, I like to turn the oven up to broil just to make sure the bacon is nice and crispy. :)
Can you see these? See all those onions?! Oh, it was overwhelming. But, please note, I hate onions. Haha!

Extra notes: As you can see, this only makes enough for about 3 people. BUT, it's no problem to double or triple the recipe. You'll just have to do it in batches if you don't have more than one muffin tin, like me. Also, most meatloaf recipes have you put a ketchup based sauce over the top either at the beginning, or at some point during the cooking process. You can certainly do that with these as well as if the bacon is wrapped around the outside. I don't know how I feel about putting ketchup right on top of that wonderful bacon. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

New toys!

I recently won a giveaway sponsored by That's It! on Facebook. I won a $50 Whole Foods gift card, but they sent me a $50 Amazon gift card by mistake. Oh well! I love Amazon too! Rather than getting anything I really needed I got some new kitchen stuff! Check out these beauties!
Like I said, I didn't really need any of things, but they will be fabulous upgrades to what I currently use!
  • I got a box grater which is 10 times bigger than the tiny pink grater I was using. I will still use my little pink one for small meals and snacks, but it will be GREAT to have a big one to shred up a big ole' chunk of cheese! Especially since my amazing parents like to bring up huge amounts for me from Cache Valley when they visit.
  • A new Pizza Wheel! The one we've had for the past 2-ish years was an extra one that my brother had laying around apartment. That he shared with 5 dudes. Needless to say, it wasn't the best quality and who knows how old that thing was. It was probably purchased at a thrift store. Haha! Anyway, this one is PINK!
  • Check out that beater blade for my Kitchenaid! There is nothing wrong with my current beater, but this one scrapes the sides! Woo!
  • I also got that pink knife you see there. Recognize it? Yeah, I already have that particular knife. I just love it so much! Not just because of it's color, but it is so sharp and cuts so well, it's amazing. I'm going to keep that one in the package for now, just in case my blog ever becomes popular and I want to do a giveaway or something. ;)

Don't worry, i'll post a recipe tomorrow. For now, it's Friday night and I just want to relax. :)
Have a great night!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Icing

Autumn! Don't you just love that word? Saying the word "autumn" automatically brings to mind images of multi-colored leaves and hot chocolate. Well, and pumpkin! If you follow other food blogs, you will have noticed the serious plethora of pumpkin related recipes over the last couple of weeks, and now I am joining the crowd. I found this recipe on For the Love of Cooking and they just seemed so different from your average pumpkin cookies, that I had to try them out. I'm so grateful that I did!
Here it goes!

Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon Icing
Thank you For the Love of Cooking

2 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 Cup Softened Butter
1 1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Pumpkin
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla

Got everything? Good! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
We're going to add the first 5 ingredients to a medium mixing bowl. First the all-purpose flour!
Then dump in the whole wheat stuff.
Baking soda, powder, and salt!
Mix it all up! I like to use a whisk. I don't know why. :)
In your fancy shmancy mixer, toss in your softened butter.
Slowly pour in the sugar. Oh, the sugar!
Go ahead and add in the pumpkin pie spice now.  Don't have pumpkin pie spice? I list how to make your own in this post.
Now cream it all together!
When it looks something like this, you can move on. . .
Add your pumpkin.
Then some vanilla.
And your egg. Check out my single hand egg crack!
Mix that all up until it looks good.
Than start adding your flour mixture!
Just make sure to add it slowly. That way flour doesn't fly out the sides of the bowl and get everywhere. I wouldn't know ;)
Mix that all up until it's creamy and smooth.
Here comes the fun part! You just grab a spoon, and plop some of the dough right down onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Go ahead and use your fingers to scrape all the excess of the spoon. Baking isn't fun if you don't get a little messy!
Here they are! They don't need to be perfect.
Put them in the oven for 15 minutes and they will come out beautiful looking, like this!
Cool em off on a wire rack. In the meantime. . .
. . . make the icing! Now, the icing isn't totally necessary. These cookies are great on their own. However, you have an opportunity here to add even more sugar to these things. Are you going to take advantage of that?!
Good. You'll need:
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
About 1/4 Cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Melted Butter
We're going to just dump everything into a little bowl! There goes the milk and butter!
Cinnamon and vanilla!
Powdered sugar!!!
Whisk it all up. I seem to have forgotten to take a picture of everything completely mixed together.
Go ahead and pour the icing over the cookies! (You might want to make sure you have something underneath your cooling racks- wax paper or something.)
Just had to include this. Check out that sweet drip-in-action in the top left corner!

Extra notes: Like I said, you don't really need the icing. It does add a nice little extra layer of flavor though. With the size of my cookies (I like them on the large side), this recipe made about 18-19 cookies.
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