Monday, September 17, 2018

Candy Corn Cookies

Ever have so much to do that you just have to ignore it all and bake something??

Well, the need to bake doesn't strike me very often, but today I needed a cookie! My son was just informed that his Army ship out date was moved up to October! (Last we heard it was January) And since it's Fall, and I love candy corn, I decided to make some candy corn cookies! Why not?

Now, I'm not the greatest in the kitchen. I'm more of a scientist than a cook... I love to experiment. So I don't have a recipe for you, I just followed my twenty-year-old Betty Crocker cookbook recipe for chocolate chip cookies and put in candy corn instead of chocolate chips. But only in half the dough--my son doesn't have a lot of faith in my experimenting and doesn't care for candy corn, so I chopped up some Hershey bars and put those in the other half.

Here's what happened...
The candy corn melted--not like smooth melty chocolate, but like that red sugary candy apple coating --and stuck to the pan... Fail!

But I was able to salvage most of the cookies with only a couple minor casualties. Here are a few good ones--and they tasted pretty good too.

Do you like to experiment in the kitchen? That's how recipes are born!
And what Fall Favorite Foods do you look forward to?

Yay for Fall!

Monday, September 10, 2018

What's for Dinner? #Recipes!

Food blogger, Jo Wake, sent me a pico de gallo baked chicken recipe that she promised would be easy enough even for me. Add the extra benefit of it also being smothered in cheese, and this was a recipe I put on the top of my try-it menu. 

From Jo: 

1 lb boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I used a whole bag of frozen breasts)
2 tsp taco seasoning (I used the whole packet)
2 cups pico de gallo
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used mozzarella, because it's what I had)

Season the chicken with the seasoning, place in a large baking pan, (I allowed the seasoning to soak in and "marinate") top with pico de gallo (I left it as a garnish to please my picky eaters) , and cheese (I added the cheese after the chicken baked so it stayed gooey) and bake in a preheated 375F/190C oven until the chicken is cooked through, about 20-30 minutes (I did 45-60 minutes...some of my breasts were pretty thick.)

Now, for the recipe in real life, the Elizabeth Seckman variety of life where cutting corners and spending as little time in the kitchen is always the goal.

First things first. I needed a pico de gallo recipe. I didn't have any in the house and driving to the grocery store was more work than plucking tomatoes out of the garden. During my quest for a recipe, I found this interesting little tidbit...

Did you know pico de gallo translates to rooster beak? Some say it's for the color. Others because it's not a sauce so much as a garnish that can be eaten with your fingers, primarily the forefinger and the thumb, which resembles a rooster's beak.  


The garnish was easy. 

The online recipe 5 roma tomatoes, 1/2 cup onion, 1 jalepeno (seeded and chopped), 1/2 cup cilantro, salt to taste, cumin or sometimes lime juice

I didn't have roma tomatoes, so I used regular tomatoes from the garden, diced small. And chopped red onion. I also didn't have any jalepenos. I worried the garnish would be bland without the jalepeno, so to flavor it up, I added a quarter cup of the baked chicken juice and a bit of garlic salt.

Now, for the chicken. 

This was super easy. Just like Jo promised. (I apologize for the bad pictures!)

I laid out the chicken breast in the pan and covered it with the taco seasoning.

Once the seasoning soaked in a bit. I covered and baked, like the recipe said.

I let the seasoning get gooey and soaked in before baking.

To go along with the chicken. I made a package of seasoned rice. Also, super easy. Just mix with water, stick in the rice steamer, and dinner is almost finished!

The finished product... 

Once the chicken was done. I sprinkled it with cheese, popped it back into the oven for a few minutes, then served after garnishing with the pico de gallo.

The picture doesn't do it justice...this was a quick, tasty meal. It got the highest thumb's up from my guys- a request for seconds!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Settling the Great #Baby Debates!

Yes, I'm talking about BABIES this week.

Though I'm far from baby stages with three big teenage boys, (Dear Stork: Please don't deliver any surprises. I don't want to be a granny before my time!) I've been among some friends and family who have precious new little ones. I'm also currently waiting to cover a teacher friend's paternity leave. AND in my next Pop Travel book (CONDUCTION) there are two babies on board!

So I thought I'd share some baby advice and settle a few of the Great Baby Debates...
  • To Paci or Not To Paci?
  • Let them Cry? or Comfort them back to sleep?
  • Crib or Parents' bed?
These topics are big decisions for new parents. After surviving three babies, reading loads of baby books, and having many discussions with relatives and friends, I can sum up the answer in one simple sentence:

It's your choice!

You should raise your child as you see fit. You have to deal with what will work for you and your family. Take all advice with gratitude and a grain of salt--savor it and try what sounds good. Like the advice I'm about to give--When deciding, you have to live with the consequences sooner or later. Crying comes with babies, so it's all how much you and the little ones can take.
  • If you want to use a pacifier, go ahead. I did. They're awesome! But get rid of it as soon as possible--the longer you wait, the harder it is. And some say it affects their teeth? Only if you use it too often for too long. Only one of my kids needed braces and it wasn't from the pacifier since he used it the least.
  • If you let them cry, have a system, like: increments of time to let them cry before going in to reassure them you're there, longer and longer until they're asleep. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done. But after only a few nights, it helps everyone sleep better in the long run. Be strong! If you give in and rock them to sleep, it will take longer to ween them from it. They have to sleep on their own at some point, it's up to you how and when.
  • Cribs are scary for baby and parents. But only at first. The separation gives you both some peace. Again, it is up to you when and how you feel comfortable having baby sleep in their own crib. But if you wait too long, as they get older, they know more and it will be harder to make the transition. This is true for the transition to big kid beds too.
You will know when it's time to do or undo things, you'll sense it. Instinct is real and intuition isn't a joke. Moms have been around forever and raised billions of kids. It's not easy, in fact it's torture at times. We all make mistakes, but we fix them too. In the end, it's all worth it.

Best Advice: Get Off the Phones! They grow up so fast, enjoy every moment!

Got any little ones in your vicinity? What's your baby advice?

Happy "Labor" Day! (ha ha)

Monday, August 27, 2018

At Home Entertainment

With summer coming to a tragic, way-to-soon close, it's time to start thinking about bringing the entertainment inside. My niece, Stacey, came up with a great way to enjoy movie time sans theater.

She hosted a movie night! There was popcorn with every seasoning Wal Mart had to offer, movie-sized treats from the dollar store, and drinks.

And to keep it handy, she had bath caddies as snack carriers. She got them at the everything-for-a-dollar store. Everyone had their own personal caddies! They worked perfectly. The caddies are separated for use with toiletries, but we used the separations to hold the drink, popcorn, and the candy.

I was so enthralled by the carriers, I couldn't help but think of all the other uses these caddies could have, such as...

*To-go meal carriers. Forget eating out of the flimsy bags or boxes. With the caddy, you can separate food and drink in a sturdy, easy to carry unit.

*Art supplies. Use the shower caddy to keep craft items, paints, brushes, or even crayons sorted and separated.

*Cleaning supplies. Load up a caddy and you're ready to clean, carrying supplies easily from room to room.

*Manicure/pedicure time. Toss your nail polishes, remover, emery boards, and clippers all together in one easy to grab and go spot.

*Make-up caddy. Same as the manicure and pedicure idea, a caddy is a great way to keep make-up organized.

*Picnic helper. Place the utensils, napkins, and condiments in a caddy and you're ready to go.

*Car washing. Stock a caddy with the cleaners, waxes, and cleaning rags and you're ready in an instant to give your car a quick clean.

Can you think of some genius uses for these caddies?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Moving Highs and Lows

Isn’t moving fun?
No. Not really.

But there is good in it. Lots! Because of all the hard work that goes into getting a house ready to sell and getting your stuff ready to move, the good parts tend to get overlooked. Sure, it's all wonderful once you’re settled into a great new house. Think about how happy everyone looks at the end of those home-finder and home improvement shows...

So as I trudge through the muck of moving, I'll make us all feel better by sharing some of the bright spots...
  1. the Great Purge - Are you always complaining about the junk you’ve collected? My hub does all the time! Well, moving requires you to finally tackle this procrastinated chore. First we have to clear the visible clutter for showings, then the major purge of all the stashed stuff for the actual move. Sort your items as you go: Bag it for donations or trash and box it for moving - just make sure you don’t mix up your piles...
    • MOVING TIP: I got some great moving boxes from Petsmart and Target - just call ahead and they'll be happy to donate to your cause since they're just throwing their boxes away anyway!
  2. Cleanliness! - Does your house always seem dirty? With messy boys and a dog, mine is never clean for more than five minutes. But with possible showings around every corner, we are on strict keep-it-clean mode! Surfaces must remain clutter-free and anything we use regularly has to have a hiding spot in a drawer or cabinet--even the toaster and toothbrushes! Since we are purging, this task gets easier. I just hope it doesn't take long to sell as I keep having to dig through some of the packed stuff! And when a showing does come, we work together to spiffy up the house - cleanest it's ever been!
    • MOVING TIP: We rearranged furniture in some of the rooms to make them more "show-friendly" and those little indentations were all over the floors. I found if you hand vacuum with the hose on those spots, they blend better with the rest of the carpet.
  3. Spreading Happiness - I mentioned donations above, but there's more to it than just giving away stuff we don't need. As the kids grow up and move on, we donate their clothes, but also books, movies, toys, and sports equipment. I usually give friends and neighbors first pick--it's great seeing first hand that it will be put to good use. We also donate to schools and churches. Then the rest we give to the Veterans and Good Will. We have lots of stuff for all!
    • MOVING TIP: Since we are moving, we use trash bags for most of the donations and save the boxes for breakables. And I recommend having a portable dolly--it saves my back over and over. I got it for my book shows, but it comes in handy all the time!
  4. Excellent Exercise - No time to work out? Cleaning, purging, and moving are terrific for making you sweat! I look for exercise in daily activities all the time. Housework, particularly vacuuming, is a great calorie burner. And since paying close attention to my eating habits is a low priority during this busy time, extra exercise comes in handy to cancel it out!
    • MOVING TIP: Don't over do it! Listen to your body and treat it with respect. Lift things by bending your knees. Use "Moving Men" sliders for big pieces of furniture. And get help - don't move alone.
Hope your summer has been a good one! And if you have any moving tips, I'll take 'em!

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