Archive for the ‘DIY Recipes’ Category

Spring Cleaning Tips

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Friday, March 20th, 2020 at 11:30 AM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

springIt’s time to do some spring cleaning! Here are some spring cleaning tips to get you started.

Air out – Get all the germs, smells, and toxins out of your house. Open your doors and windows and set ceiling fans on low. Airing out mattresses a couple times a year also reduces dust and dander. While the windows are open wash the linens and vacuum and rotate your mattress..

De-Clutter – Tackle a closet a week and clear out all the items you no longer use. I do the one-year rule.  If I haven’t worn it in a year, I don’t need it.  Donate these items to charity.  We get emails and mail all the time with donation trucks in our area.  Get some shoe racks , baskets, or shelves to better organize yourself.

Clean Furniture – If you have a leather coach make sure and clean and treat it.  I put a note in my calendar every three months and do it on that day so I don’t forget. Protect wood floors by checking the pads on furniture feet and replacing as needed.

dustDe-Dust – Check the often overlooked areas, such as light fixtures and ceiling fans. Dust down house plants and check the corners of your walls to see if there an any dust or dander.

Kitchen Spruce Up – Clean your refrigerator by wiping down the shelves and drawers with a non-toxic cleaning solution made with two tablespoons baking soda dissolved in a quart of warm water. And don’t forget that extra fridge in the garage! Tackle the microwave next by heating a coffee cup of water mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice on high for 3 to 5 minutes, just long enough for the solution to boil and steam up the microwave. Keep the door shut for a minute longer, and then carefully remove the hot cup. Wipe away loosened grime with a soft cloth.

Sanitize the garbage disposal. Drop a few lemon slices and two tablespoons of baking soda down the disposal. Run the grinder and then rinse with hot water.

These are just a few ways to tackle your spring cleaning projects!  Here is to a happy & clean home!

Black-Eyed Peas~ A Southern Tradition for Luck and Prosperity in the New Year

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Monday, December 30th, 2019 at 3:30 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

If you are planning to celebrate the New Year today here in Texas, it is likely that you will be offered black-eyed peas in some form! These flavorful legumes are traditionally, according to Southern folklore, the first food to be eaten on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead. Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved to include:

~Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.

~ Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.

~ For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.

~ Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.

~ In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.

~ Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year!

Here are just a couple of the most popular ways to prepare these yummy beans:

Hoppin’ John – Although served throughout the year as well, Hoppin’ John is one of the most traditional New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day dishes in the South. Black-eyed peas are cooked with rice, pork (such as chopped pork or ham, hog jowls or hambones, fatback or bacon) and seasonings. Sometimes chopped onions and hot sauce are added.

Texas (Black-Eyed Pea) Caviar – This is a popular casual alternative that blends Southern and Mexican flavors with black-eyed peas and is usually served with tortilla chips. This is my family’s favorite by far!

Black-Eyed Pea Salad – There are many recipes for salads made with black-eyed peas, so this is a good choice for a side dish served with other dishes.

5 New & Unique Christmas Cookie Recipes

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Friday, December 20th, 2019 at 4:00 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

Even though tradition is a big part of the holidays, sometimes it is nice to mix it up and try something new! I usually bake about 8-10 cookie recipes during the Christmas season and most of them are the tried and true classics like sugar cookies, snickerdoodles and gingerbread men. But a few years ago, I started the idea of adding one new and unique recipe to my repertoire and now that has become a family tradition that my family eagerly awaits!

So here are 5 recipes that I have baked before that could easily become a classic in your house!

Smores Cookies~ You have to try this wintry one-bite take on the s’more. The thin, crunchy graham rounds are topped with gooey chocolate ganache and a spiraling pillow of browned marshmallow.

Eggnog Cookies~ A soft, cakey cookie made with eggnog, topped with eggnog frosting.

Milk Chocolate Chip Maple Syrup Glazed Bacon Cookies~ These will blow you away if you are a salty sweet fan! Bacon is not-so-secret ingredient in these smoky cookies, but its the maple syrup that adds a just-right amount of sweetness that really takes them to the next level.

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel~ A blend of coconut and salt caramels combines in these delicious cookies for just the right amount of sweet and simple.

Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies~ Cocoa powder, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper make for an aromatic and comforting combination.

DIY Fall Centerpieces

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Thursday, October 10th, 2019 at 11:30 AM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

Looking to get into the “fall spirit”?  Here our some tips on DIY Fall Centerpieces…

Beginning to decorate for fall is one of those warm and fuzzy moments. The rich colors, the cool and crisp weather, and all of the many, many pumpkin-flavored things that are no longer just an afterthought but front and center in your mind—just like your centerpieces. Fall time welcomes entertaining and lots of it. Now, we know you have a few recipes that are to-die-for, so why not create a centerpiece that’s just as fun for you and your guests?

Here are some of the best ways to create a breathtaking fall centerpiece.

Choose your Centerpieces

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 1.10.16 PMvia Pinterest

Set the Scene

Creating a centerpiece can be over and underwhelming. Sometimes it’s too sparse and bare looking, and other times it looks more like an overdone window display than a thoughtful finishing touch on the dinner table. A great way to begin is by setting the scene with a complementary yet neutral tablecloth or runner that will anchor your decorations. Unless you are using your décor in place of a tablecloth, then we suggest you use something like a wide and open-mouthed basket or tray to keep things contained. Nobody wants foliage in their dessert…

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 1.13.09 PMvia Pinterest

Pick a Palette

It goes without saying that the classic fall palette is a pleasing monochromatic color scheme of deep red, orange, and gold. However, don’t be afraid to shake things up and go with something different. Play around with soft and toned-down hues of pale, powdery blues, grey, or even deep purple and green to give it a natural, earthy feel that is still warm and inviting. You want your display to be pleasantly surprising and not, er, alarming.

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 1.15.50 PMvia Pinterest

Add the Finishing Touches

Once you’ve arranged everything out on the table, you’ll most likely see a few gaps that you could leave empty or fill with a few extra pieces. Leaving the blank space will offer a more minimal look, and if you don’t have a lot of table space it’s probably a good idea for when you are serving food. However, if you do have enough space, that gives you some room to play, decor wise! Use candles with a pop of color that will both add a nice aesthetic element and some warmth once you light them. Or grab something like a wooden or brass piece to give it texture and character. Don’t be frustrated if at first it doesn’t work- just keep at it!

Kid Friendly DIY Memorial Day Projects

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Monday, May 27th, 2019 at 8:00 AM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

Memorial Day weekend is a time of reflection for our fallen soldiers, reminding us to commemorate their heroic efforts, while spending time with our own family. This idea is not always easy for our littlest ones to understand, so why not create something patriotic together to celebrate this important holiday weekend?

Here are a few festive red, white and blue projects for Memorial Day to complete with your kids, ranging from decorations to food to keepsakes.

Toothpick Flag Wreath~ This is perfect for toddlers to help out with- all you need is a hollow Styrofoam circle, then stick in the flag toothpicks until it looks fluffy. Who knew toothpicks could be so decorative? Thanks to The Picky Apple for this awesome idea.

Painted Star Backyard~ Transform your backyard into a field of patriotic stars with this idea by The Concrete Cottage. After a little rain, the paint will fade.

Rice Candles~ Putting this patriotic Memorial Day decor together could not be easier than with this project by Today’s Creative Blog. Simply dye rice red and blue with food coloring, then layer the colors around a candle in a jar of your choice.

Flags in a Jar~ Layer JELL-O and fruit to create these adorable flags in a jar from Green Acres Hobby Farm. They look so festive, and taste great too!

Flag Cake~ If you’re feeling super ambitious, try baking a Hidden Flag Cake, which is made with a layer of red cake, a layer of white frosting, and a blue cake center so when sliced, everyone is served a perfect flag.

Black-Eyed Peas~ A Southern Tradition for Luck and Prosperity in the New Year

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Monday, December 31st, 2018 at 4:00 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

If you are planning to celebrate the New Year today here in Texas, it is likely that you will be offered black-eyed peas in some form! These flavorful legumes are traditionally, according to Southern folklore, the first food to be eaten on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead. Today, the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for the New Year has evolved to include:

~Served with greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, which varies regionally), the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. In some areas cabbage is used in place of the greens.

~ Cornbread, often served with black-eyed peas and greens, represents gold.

~ For the best chance of luck every day in the year ahead, one must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.

~ Black-eyed peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent wealth and health.

~ In some areas, actual values are assigned with the black-eyed peas representing pennies or up to a dollar each and the greens representing anywhere from one to a thousand dollars.

~ Adding a shiny penny or dime to the pot just before serving is another tradition practiced by some. When served, the person whose bowl contains the penny or dime receives the best luck for the New Year!

 

Here are just a couple of the most popular ways to prepare these yummy beans:

Hoppin’ John – Although served throughout the year as well, Hoppin’ John is one of the most traditional New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day dishes in the South. Black-eyed peas are cooked with rice, pork (such as chopped pork or ham, hog jowls or hambones, fatback or bacon) and seasonings. Sometimes chopped onions and hot sauce are added.

Texas (Black-Eyed Pea) Caviar – This is a popular casual alternative that blends Southern and Mexican flavors with black-eyed peas and is usually served with tortilla chips. This is my family’s favorite by far!

Black-Eyed Pea Salad – There are many recipes for salads made with black-eyed peas, so this is a good choice for a side dish served with other dishes.

30 Fall Weather Soups, Chilis & Stews

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Thursday, October 18th, 2018 at 10:40 AM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

30 Fall Weather Soups, Chilis & Stews

Soups, Chilis and Stews to Warm Your Belly!

Fall is here! The mornings are getting colder, and the days are getting shorter. One of the best things about fall is all of the dishes that are inspired but the changing weather. Dust off that old crock pot and try out these 30 Fall Weather Soups, Chilis & Stews. These are sure to keep your belly full and your heart happy.

What is YOUR favorite fall weather recipe?

Get more recipes HERE!

DIY Fall Centerpieces

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Tuesday, October 9th, 2018 at 2:20 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

Looking to get into the “fall spirit”?  Here our some tips on DIY Fall Centerpieces…

Beginning to decorate for fall is one of those warm and fuzzy moments. The rich colors, the cool and crisp weather, and all of the many, many pumpkin-flavored things that are no longer just an afterthought but front and center in your mind—just like your centerpieces. Fall time welcomes entertaining and lots of it. Now, we know you have a few recipes that are to-die-for, so why not create a centerpiece that’s just as fun for you and your guests?

Here are some of the best ways to create a breathtaking fall centerpiece.

Choose your Centerpieces

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 1.10.16 PMvia Pinterest

Set the Scene

Creating a centerpiece can be over and underwhelming. Sometimes it’s too sparse and bare looking, and other times it looks more like an overdone window display than a thoughtful finishing touch on the dinner table. A great way to begin is by setting the scene with a complementary yet neutral tablecloth or runner that will anchor your decorations. Unless you are using your décor in place of a tablecloth, then we suggest you use something like a wide and open-mouthed basket or tray to keep things contained. Nobody wants foliage in their dessert…

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 1.13.09 PMvia Pinterest

Pick a Palette

It goes without saying that the classic fall palette is a pleasing monochromatic color scheme of deep red, orange, and gold. However, don’t be afraid to shake things up and go with something different. Play around with soft and toned-down hues of pale, powdery blues, grey, or even deep purple and green to give it a natural, earthy feel that is still warm and inviting. You want your display to be pleasantly surprising and not, er, alarming.

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 1.15.50 PMvia Pinterest

Add the Finishing Touches

Once you’ve arranged everything out on the table, you’ll most likely see a few gaps that you could leave empty or fill with a few extra pieces. Leaving the blank space will offer a more minimal look, and if you don’t have a lot of table space it’s probably a good idea for when you are serving food. However, if you do have enough space, that gives you some room to play, decor wise! Use candles with a pop of color that will both add a nice aesthetic element and some warmth once you light them. Or grab something like a wooden or brass piece to give it texture and character. Don’t be frustrated if at first it doesn’t work- just keep at it!

Mid Summer Lawn & Garden Checklist

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Saturday, August 25th, 2018 at 2:20 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

No one can deny that we are right in the middle of the “dog days of summer,” the hottest time of the year here in North Texas. Everything but the mosquitoes and locusts seem lethargic and the sun seems to bake lawns and gardens. However, there is plenty to do in the garden in August, although it is best done in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are more comfortable. Check out these suggestions for tasks around your yard and garden this month:

Lawn Maintenance and Preparation

• Aerate your lawn and dethatch it.
• If there is plenty of rainfall, fertilize your lawn. If there is not- DON’T.
• To help your grass beat the heat and reduce lawn maintenance, keep your lawn mower blade on the highest setting. Don’t worry if parts of your yard turn brown this time of year – it happens.

Annuals and Perennials

• Trim and fertilize your containers – they still have time for another show in the fall.
• Deal with pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites with a spray of water from the hose.
• Treat diseased plants, and remove diseased foliage before leaves drop.
• Continue deadheading (remove faded flowers) for prolific bloomers, shear them lightly to encourage more blooms.

Vegetables and Herbs

• Cut herbs to dry or freeze for winter use.
• Fall vegetable and herb seeds or starters can be planted now.  Consider spinach, radishes, carrots, beets, lettuce, overwintering onions, kale, kohlrabi, rutabagas, turnips, dill, cilantro, parsley, and chives.

Shrubs and Trees

• Pick up and destroy fallen fruit from fruit trees to limit insect infestations.
• Make sure newly planted shrubs and trees get plenty of water.

Maintainance

• Early morning is the best time to water – target plants directly, and water deeply. Avoid getting leaves wet in the hot sun, and avoid soaking containers during the hottest part of the day – both of these can burn plants.
• Keep close watch on your birdbath, water features, and hummingbird feeder – take steps to correct or avoid mold, stagnation, and mosquito larvae.
• Continue weeding, to reduce competition for water and nutrients.
• When the temperature is over 85 degrees, avoid chemical applications such as fertilizer, fungicide, or insecticide.
• Add compost and mulch to keep your garden cool and to prepare for fall planting.

4th Of July Themed Recipes

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018 at 12:00 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

Looking for some fresh, new dishes to try this 4th of July? If so, here are just a few of the best 4th of July themed recipes from Pinterest.

Fourth of July Wands (makes 20 wands)

INGREDIENTS:

1 watermelon
2 pints blueberries
20 skewers

DIRECTIONS:

1. Slice the watermelon into 1/2 inch round slices, and then cut out star shapes using a three-inch star-shaped cookie cutter.
2. Gently slide the blueberries on wooden skewers* and finally place a watermelon star on the top.
3. Place the skewers in a tall glass or in decorated floral foam as an eatable centerpiece.
* If serving to young kids make sure they’re careful with the wooden skewers.

Thanks, Weelicious

4TH OF JULY FRESH BERRY TRIFLES

INGREDIENTS:

One 12-ounce lemon pound cake (homemade or store bought)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups finely diced strawberries
10 8-ounce plastic (see-thru) cups

DIRECTIONS:

1. Cut the pound cake into 10 slices. Use a small STAR cookie cutter to cut out 10 stars from the center of each slice. Chop the remnants of each slice into small pieces. Set aside.

2. Place the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine them until well combined (1 to 2 minutes). Add the cream and continue to whip until the mixture is soft and creamy.

3. Assemble the trifles: Set all of the plastic cups on a tray. Sprinkle a few cubes of pound cake into each cup. Top with a small spoonful of cream and a spoonful of both blueberries and strawberries. Layer again- more pound cake, more cream and more berries, and then place a star-shaped piece of pound cake on top.

Thanks, Recipe Girl

Firecracker Popcorn

INGREDIENTS:

1 bag Pop Secret Homestyle microwave popcorn
1 cup white candy melts
1 package Strawberry Pop Rocks candy
Blue sprinkles

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the popcorn according to package directions. Spread onto a cookie sheet and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, melt the candy melts and drizzle onto the popcorn.
Sprinkle Strawberry Pop Rocks onto the popcorn.
**If you want some EXTRA sizzle, use Blue Pop Rocks, too!**
Add sprinkles and allow to harden completely.

Thanks, The Nerds Wife

Red, White and Blue Patriotic Peppermint Patties

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup light corn syrup
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1½ tsps lemon extract OR ½ to 1 tsp peppermint extract OR any other extract you want
food coloring – I used Wilton’s red and blue icing color in the gel format
½ cup granulated sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Combine butter and corn syrup together in a small bowl.
Add 2 cups powdered sugar and your choice of extract and beat until well combined. Add extract ½ teaspoon at a time until the mixture reaches your desired flavor.
Stir in an additional cup of powdered sugar.
Turn bowl onto a cutting board sprinkled with last cup of powdered sugar.
Knead the mixture until sugar is absorbed and is completely smooth.
Divide dough into three portions.
Tint one portion red with the red food color/gel and one blue. Leave one portion white.
Shape into ¾ inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.
Flatten gently with a fork.
Let candies stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 day.
Store in an airtight container.

Thanks, Mom On Time Out

4TH OF JULY STAR COOKIES

INGREDIENTS:

1-1/4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
24 strawberries, thinly sliced
1 cup blueberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Form the mixture into 3 small balls and knead each one until smooth.

On a lightly floured surface, roll a ball of dough to 1/2-inch thick. Use a star cookie cutter to cut into stars. Place them 1-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies are set. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl, blend the cream cheese and powdered sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Carefully spread icing evenly over each cooled cookie. Slice each strawberry slice in half and arrange on the cookies pointing outward. Place three blueberries in the center of each cookie.

Thanks, Gold Medal Flour

Patriotic Cake Pops

INGREDIENTS:

Red candy melts
Royal blue candy melts
White cookie icing
White sugar sprinkles
1 can prepared vanilla frosting
Favorite cake recipe or cake mix (plus ingredients)

Supplies:

50 cookie sticks
Wax paper
Cookie sheet
Chocolate melting pot

DIRECTIONS:

Prep the cake. Bake cake as directed on package. When completely cool, break the cake into crumbs by hand in a large bowl. Mix in full can of frosting until well blended.
Make cake balls. Roll the cake mixture into 50 1-inch balls and place on waxed paper.
Melt the candy melts as directed. For the “stars” of your flag, use the royal blue candy melts. For the “stripes” pops, use the red candy melts.
Add the sticks. Dip a cookie stick about 1/2 inch into warm candy melt and insert the stick into the rounded part of a cake ball. Repeat for remaining cake balls.
Prop up pops. Place pops cake end down, on waxed paper while the chocolate is still slightly warm, so the candy hardens into a flat surface at the top (this will help your pops stand up when serving).
Cool the pops. Place the cake pops in the freezer for about 10 minutes, or in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, to firm.
Add a second layer of chocolate. Once the pops are firm, remove from the fridge/freezer and dip each into the melted chocolate, tapping excess chocolate off.
Sprinkle on the stars. Decorate the blue pops with white sprinkles before chocolate coating hardens.
Drizzle on the stripes. Drizzle white cookie icing over the red pops after chocolate coating hardens.
Make your flag fly! Line up your pops to create the Stars and Stripes on a tray.

Thanks, Party City & MySTLMommy!

How to Paint Laminate Furniture

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018 at 4:00 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

We all have some of that inexpensive laminate furniture in our house that we are tired of looking at! But did you know that with a little effort, you can transform those cheap book shelves or dressers into something stylish and functional by just adding some color.

When you begin to paint laminate furniture, there are a few things to know that are different than painting real wood furniture. You are basically dealing with a surface that is more like plastic instead of a surface that is wood. So here are the steps you need to follow get give your piece a new life:

Do you need to sand the project? With plastic, you can’t really sand the surface, but the best you can do is use a 320-400 grit sandpaper to scuff up the surface a little.

A clean surface is a MUST! With laminate, you will depend more on the paint or primer adhering to a clean surface than you will a surface that is been scuffed with sandpaper. Clean very thoroughly with Windex or TSP- this is a crucial step because primer and paint won’t adhere to a dirty or greasy surface.

Use an Oil-based Primer. Choose an oil based primer like Kilz or Cover Stain. Or another option, depending on the type of laminate you have, would be a plastic primer. You can always do a sample test by painting an inconspicuous spot of the furniture piece with primer, let it set for 7 days and see how well it adheres to the surface.

Paint. Once you have a primer on the piece that will adhere well to the surface, you can use almost any type of paint over the surface of the primer. Anything from spray paint to latex will work.

Clear Coat.  Whether or not you decide to clear coat the piece will depend on how much durability you require.  If you are doing cabinets or a table, then I would definitely recommend a clear coat. If you are doing a dresser or side tables, a clear coat is probably not necessary.

Thanks, Painted Furniture Ideas!

 

Grilled Dessert Recipes

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Monday, May 28th, 2018 at 2:20 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

Grilling this Memorial Day? Most people don’t think they can grill their dessert but here are 5 “sure fire” recipes that everyone will love!  Try one and let us know what you think!

Grilled Pound Cake with Berries Recipe– The toasty flavor of lightly grilled pound cake makes it the perfect accompaniment for summertime berries. Lemon-kissed whipping cream is a delightful finishing touch. If your grill is dirty, just protect the cake with aluminum foil!

Cake & Berry Grilled Cobbler Recipe~ This warm cobbler is one of the ways to end a busy day. Top each serving with a scoop of ice cream and you won’t believe how simple this was to make!

Grilled Doughnuts- Just try putting your favorite doughnut on the grill and your life will be forever changed! Roll in cinnamon sugar while it is still hot and top with ice cream if you want!

Grilled Smores Waffle Cones- We tried these last weekend and they were AWESOME! Just stuff a waffle cone with chocolate (any kind) and marshmallows, wrap in foil and grill until melted!  If you want to be a little more sophisticated, add fresh berries!

Grilled Banana Boats with Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Marshmallows~  Just slice a banana lengthwise, being careful not to slice all the way through the banana. Pry open sliced pocket and stuff with  chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Top with marshmallows and grill until gooey!

Thanks, Taste of Home!

Kid Friendly DIY Memorial Day Projects

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Monday, May 21st, 2018 at 3:20 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

Memorial Day weekend is a time of reflection for our fallen soldiers, reminding us to commemorate their heroic efforts, while spending time with our own family. This idea is not always easy for our littlest ones to understand, so why not create something patriotic together to celebrate this important holiday weekend?

Here are a few festive red, white and blue projects for Memorial Day to complete with your kids, ranging from decorations to food to keepsakes.

Toothpick Flag Wreath~ This is perfect for toddlers to help out with- all you need is a hollow Styrofoam circle, then stick in the flag toothpicks until it looks fluffy. Who knew toothpicks could be so decorative? Thanks to The Picky Apple for this awesome idea.

Painted Star Backyard~ Transform your backyard into a field of patriotic stars with this idea by The Concrete Cottage. After a little rain, the paint will fade.

Rice Candles~ Putting this patriotic Memorial Day decor together could not be easier than with this project by Today’s Creative Blog. Simply dye rice red and blue with food coloring, then layer the colors around a candle in a jar of your choice.

Flags in a Jar~ Layer JELL-O and fruit to create these adorable flags in a jar from Green Acres Hobby Farm. They look so festive, and taste great too!

Flag Cake~ If you’re feeling super ambitious, try baking a Hidden Flag Cake, which is made with a layer of red cake, a layer of white frosting, and a blue cake center so when sliced, everyone is served a perfect flag.

Healthy Makeover For Your Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Dinner

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Saturday, May 5th, 2018 at 12:00 PM
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the Full Disclosures!

I always make a special Cinco de Mayo dinner for my family, especially if it will be a crazy Saturday night and it is not convenient for us to make it to our favorite Mexican restaurant! Normally, a lot of the dishes that we traditionally associate with this fiesta are not that healthy. So here are a few makeover ideas to get you thinking about nutrition without sacrificing all those yummy flavors we love!

1. Start With the Chips~ It is so easy to make your own tortilla chips, plus this is a fun and easy recipe to do with your kids! Here is my go-to homemade recipe- take whole wheat tortillas and cut into triangles. Simply place them on a baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking oil. Then season however you like and bake for 5-6 minutes in a 350°F oven.

2. Choose Your Dip Wisely~  Load up on salsa, it is full of veggies. But make sure to check the ingredients if you are not making it yourself because some brands can be really high in sodium. Also, limit your guacamole to one serving (about 2 tablespoons) and stay away from queso.

3. Lighten Up Your Tacos~  Always choose lean ground beef or even better, use ground turkey or fish. Add mushrooms or lentils to your meat mix to get additional nutrition and stretch your dinner budget.  Leave off the cheese and sour cream and these tacos will actually be good for you!

4. Swap Your Burrito For a Burrito Bowl~ A lot of the calories from this favorite come for the super large tortillas used to wrap up this goodness. Instead, put your burrito filling over brown rice or a fresh salad.

5. Pile on the Spices~ Probably the most delicious part of Mexican cooking is the wide array of spices they use. Peppers (adobo, chili, jalapeño), cilantro, and cumin are all known to have positive health benefits while adding tons of flavor and hardly any calories!

6. Skinny Margaritas~ Any fiesta would be incomplete without a margarita! There are lots of great tasting, low calorie options at your grocery store so this is definitely an area you can save calories. And stick with just one drink- Cinco de Mayo is on a Tuesday this year afterall! 😉

 

Choosing Quality Fruits and Vegetables at the Grocery Store

Posted by Jennifer Carles on Sunday, April 29th, 2018 at 2:40 PM
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Choosing quality fruits and vegetables at the grocery store

Eating healthy is really important to my family.  When I shop for fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, I want to be sure they are fresh.  Debbie Meyer GreenBags have saved a ton of my produce from going bad!  These bags keep your fruits and vegetables SUPER fresh for longer periods of time.

If your fruits and vegetables are too ripe, you risk them going bad before using them. When they aren’t quite ripe enough, you can’t eat, cook or bake with them right away. Make sure you know the tricks for spotting fresh, ripe and ready fruits and vegetables! Here’s how to tell if the produce you pick up at the grocery store is fresh and ready to take home:

Apricots  Good apricots are firm and have a nice, solid amber color. Stay away from pale yellow or greenish colored apricots. Apricots that are too soft are no good!

Blueberries  You’ll want to buy firm, dry and brightly colored berries.  If they are dull or watery, pass them up!

Cantaloupe   Perfect cantaloupes have a delicate aroma, yellowish skin and a thick texture on the rind. Do not buy cantaloupes with a sweet and pungent aroma or those that have a soft rind.

Cherries   Pick cherries that have new looking stems and a smooth, shiny surface. Bad cherries have dried steams and dull surfaces.

Grapes   The best grapes are tender, plump, firmly attached to the stems.  Green grapes should have a slight amber blush near the stem.  Bad grapes are brown in color, have a wrinkled surface and brittle

Grapefruit   Don’t bother looking at the color.  Look for heavy, thin-skinned grapefruits that are slightly springy.  Avoid thick or rough skin.

Kiwi  Good kiwi gives slightly when pressed.  If it’s too hard, don’t buy it.

Mangos  Mango can be several different colors.  The best way to test it is to grab a yellow fruit, and expect it to be slightly soft to the touch.  It should have a ripe aroma at the stem.

Oranges   Good oranges are firm, heavy and have a smooth texture all over.  You don’t want oranges that are spongey or rough.

Papaya  Choose fruit with a red-orange skin.  Avoid green or hard papaya.

Peaches  A nice peach is firm and plump. You want it to be yellowish-orange with a little red blush around it.  If it’s super soft, don’t buy it!

Pineapple  Watch for fruit that smells sweet at the stem and is heavy for its size.

Plums  The best plums are those that yield slightly to pressure.  They should have a deep purple color and semi-soft tip.  Rock hard plums should be avoided, as they won’t ripen.

Strawberries  Deep, shiny red skins are what you want.  Avoid blemishes or green spots.

Watermelon   Good watermelons should be symmetrical in shape. They should have a cream-colored underside. Do not buy watermelons with cushiony spots.

Artichokes Choose globes that have tight leaves and feel heavy for their size. The leaves should squeak when pressed against each other.

Asparagus  Good asparagus have closed tips and straight green stalks. Bad asparagus have open tips and the stalks are curved.  This is the first sign of wilting.

Avocados  Avocados feel slightly soft to the touch. Firmer avocados may be ripened at home, but avoid rock-hard ones. Also avoid avocados with cracks or dents.

Beets  Pick firm beets with fresh stems and slender taproots. Avoid beets with wilted leaves, scaly tops, or large, hairy taproots as they may be older and more woody.

Bell Pepper  A bell pepper of any color should  have bright and glossy skin. They are firm and thick, while bad bell peppers have soft spots and shriveled surfaces.

Broccoli  To pick a nice batch of broccoli, you want it to be firm.  It should have closed florets and have a deep green color. Stay clear of broccoli that are yellow in color, with open florets and water-soaked spots.

Brussels Sprouts  Choose firm, compact, bright green heads. Avoid sprouts with wilted or loose outer leaves.

Cabbages Firm, compact heads that feel heavy for their size are the best. Check that the stems are also fresh and compact.

Carrot  Picking carrots is easy.  Carrots that are firm and have a bright orange color are good. Bad carrots have a rough texture, soft and have green roots.

Cauliflower  Choose heads with tightly packed, creamy white florets. Avoid yellowed, spotted, or flowering florets.

Celery  You want firm, unblemished stalks. The stalks and leaves should be green, not yellow.

Corn  Pick corn with bright green husks and moist but not slimy silk. Peel back the husk to ensure the kernels are plump and not dry.

Cucumbers  Choose cucumbers that are uniformly green (not yellow).

Eggplant  You want an eggplant that is shiny, heavy for its size and firm.  A slight bounce back will indicate a great piece of eggplant.  Don’t bother with the ones that are dull or lightweight.

Garlic  Pick firm, plump heads. Avoid heads with soft spots or green sprouts.

Green Beans  Slender beans that snap rather than bend are green beans you want. Avoid bulging or dried pods.


Lettuce, Spinach, and Other Leafy Greens
 Choose greens with fresh, crisp leaves. Avoid any that are wilted or slimy.

Peas  You’ll want crisp, green pods. Avoid bulging, dried, yellow, or white pods.

Potatoes  These should be firm, smooth potatoes. Avoid those with bruises, green spots, or sprouts.

Radishes  Go for radishes with fresh, green tops and firm, unblemished roots.

Summer Squash  The best squash has naturally shiny, taught, unblemished skin. Avoid squash that appear dull or have soft spots.

Sweet Potatoes and Yams  Choose potatoes with firm, unwrinkled skins and no bruises or cuts, as they are highly perishable.

Tomato  Good tomatoes are plump, smooth and have a rich red color. Bad tomatoes look shriveled and have blemishes.

Winter Squash  Choose squash that have stems intact and feel heavy for their size. Avoid squash with cuts or soft spots.

Knowing that your fruits and vegetables are ripe and ready to use or eat will save you time and money.  Cooking some broccoli for the family tonight?  Make sure that head is firm and green!  Baking a peach pie for dessert? Watch for that red blush around the fruit.  Get ready to grab some great quality fruits and vegetables on your next trip to the grocery store!

What tips and tricks do you have for choosing fruits and vegetables?