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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Just like the more traditional form, yet every bit as delicious, handheld and much less messy, these Strawberry Shortcake Cookies are a perfect summer treat!
I was craving Strawberry Cream Pie the other day like crazy!  It was midday and I was tired, so of course I didn't want to go to all the effort of making one.  Yet being pregnant, I still had to get my strawberry dessert fix because the idea had already been planted in my brain and wasn't about to go away.  :)

So I came up with a much less involved way to satisfy my yearning, and boy did I thank myself for doing so when I took the first bite. 

It was absolute heaven.

A creamy, dreamy frosting atop a cookie that's so soft it's unreal.  All with a perfect, juicy strawberry topping.

{STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE COOKIES}
Base cookie recipe adapted from Center Cut Cook
Makes about 30 cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. almond extract
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Frosting:
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 cup Cool Whip

Strawberry Topping:
1 lb. strawberries, washed and chopped small
1 Tbsp. sugar

For the strawberry topping, place chopped strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle sugar over the top.  Stir and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  More time is better because the mixture will get juicy and the sweet flavor will really come out.

For the cookies, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together sugar, butter, eggs, sour cream, and almond extract.  In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until combined.  

Form about 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat until cookie sheet is filled, then use the palm of your hand to lightly flatten each ball.  

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 9-10 minutes.  Don't let the bottoms get too brown.  Immediately remove cookies from pan to a cooling rack.  

For the frosting, place cream cheese, powdered sugar and Cool Whip in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until fluffy.

Frost cookies and top with a spoonful of strawberries.  Serve.

I'd recommend only frosting and topping the cookies you will be eating at the time.  Otherwise, store the frosting and strawberries in the refrigerator.  Store extra cookies at room temperature in an airtight container.  Separate layers with wax paper so they won't stick together.
 Oh my goodness!  This is what it's all about, folks!  Life is good as long as I've got one of these phenomenal cookies in each hand.

I was going to be kind and share a bunch at a church activity at the park, but then a rainstorm caused its cancellation.  Oh dang!  More for me!  Ha!

I was happy and sad all at the same time.  Happy because I could have these delicacies all to myself and oh-so torn because it would mean more weight to take off after having baby.  A little conflict ensued within myself for a short while, you know with the devil on one shoulder and angel on the other.  Eventually the good guy in white won out and I opted to keep a little stash in the refrigerator for later and give the rest to some lucky souls the next day after meetings.
 These fabulous confections will do that to you.  They will bring out the urge to devour.  Which is why they're perfect for summer potlucks, barbecues, and other gatherings!  Everyone will love you for bringing them!

Enjoy!

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Layered Pudding Pops

Cool off this summer with some frozen, multi-colored pudding popsicles!  My kids had a blast making these the other day.
The temps here are steadily rising.  This past week, it was in the upper 90's and even hit 103!  Yikes!  It's a little much for my seven month pregnant self.  :)

We still go out, but when we do, we like to jump in a refreshing swimming pool or sit in the shade.  There will be no tans for me this time around.  I will proudly sport my glow-in-the-dark skin around if it means a little more comfort. :)

When we head indoors again, it's like a breath of fresh air from the heat that seems to suffocate us outside.  The kids then raid the refrigerator and freezer for cool treats.

The other day, we put together some fun and colorful popsicles that provided the perfect refreshment after some play time outdoors.

This creation was a happy accident, really.  I had originally wanted to make them as a festive 4th of July treat, but the colors didn't turn out like I had hoped, as you can see.  :)  Oh well!  The taste was still fantastic, so we're calling them "Layered Pudding Pops" instead.  No harm done!  In fact, only good things came of this kitchen project.  The kids merrily helped stir and pour and then we all reaped the delicious benefits afterwards.

{LAYERED PUDDING POPS}

1 pkg (3.4 oz.) Jello Strawberry Creme Instant Pudding and Pie Filling, prepared
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling, prepared
1 Tbsp. Jolly Rancher Blue Raspberry Gelatin, dry from the packet 
Red and blue food coloring
Popsicle sticks

Prepare strawberry and vanilla pudding in separate bowls, according to package directions.  Let them set up in the fridge.  Divide vanilla pudding mixture in half and place in separate bowls.  Leave one as is and add 1 Tbsp. Jolly Rancher Blue Raspberry Gelatin (dry from the packet) into the other bowl.  Stir well and add blue food coloring, if desired, until desired color is reached.  Add red food coloring to strawberry pudding to achieve a darker color, if desired.  Stir.  

Grab your popsicle molds and, starting with the strawberry pudding, put a few spoonfuls of it into the bottom. Tap the popsicle mold onto the counter as you go to get rid of air bubbles and even the layers out.  You may need to get a paper towel and carefully clean stray drips on the mold inside before adding additional layers.  Do the same with the plain vanilla pudding, followed by the blue pudding, until you get to the top of the molds.  Insert popsicle sticks and freeze.  To remove the popsicles easily from molds, run the mold under cold water while gently jiggling the popsicle sticks until they come free.

They were a huge hit with the kids!  Enjoy and keep cool this summer!

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

DIY Firecracker Table Centerpiece

I love celebrating the 4th of July, and I especially enjoy decorating my house with red, white, and blue in anticipation of the special day, so today I'm excited to share how to make a cute and festive ribbon Firecracker Table Display!
I originally shared this idea over at The Ribbon Retreat, where I'm thrilled to be a contributor.

I get excited each Independence Day for the special opportunity to celebrate America and the wonderful country that it is.  I feel so much pride when I get to put my hand over my heart and say the pledge of allegiance.  My heart always skips a beat at the sight of Old Glory, and the sound of The Star Spangled Banner anthem puts chills on my arms.  I love the U.S.A!  

I look forward to getting together with family and friends on July 4th for a barbecue and late-night fireworks.  I have fond memories of laying on the cool grass outside of the big stadium as a teenager with my siblings, waiting for dark, so we could watch the spectacular show, coordinated to music, light up the sky.  

I also enjoy decorating my house for this fun holiday, and you know how I love a good craft project, so I put together some cute firecrackers to adorn my tabletop.   One can never too much patriotic decor, at least that's my motto!

Here's what you'll need to recreate them.
{SUPPLIES}

Lots of cute red, white and blue ribbon in a variety of patterns and textures

You'll also need some mailing tubes.  Because I'm a frugal gal, I used a few leftover tubes from my Silhouette vinyl rolls, and then one toilet paper roll for differing heights.  

Also grab some fun patriotic pics to insert in the tops of the firecrackers (I found mine at Hobby Lobby).  

These items are not shown in the image above, but this project also requires some craft foam and red paper mailing filler.
Start by cutting your craft foam so it fits snuggly inside the top portion of the tube.  This is to hold your pics in place, so it just needs to be long enough to support them.
Insert the foam and hot glue it to the inside of the tube where it touches to reinforce it.
Now decorate the outside of the tube with lots of cute ribbon!  Cut each strip so it overlaps on itself just a little.  Hot glue it in place. 
Keep working your way up the tube with coordinating ribbon, ensuring that your seams line up for a clean overall look.  Also, make sure there's no gap in the ribbon sections so your tube doesn't show.  I love the star cutout ribbon!

I opted not to paint my tube first, but you certainly could do that if you want a different color to show through the stars.
I layered some blue ric rac down the center of the star cutout ribbon for variety and added cuteness. 
I also threw in some adorable baby pom fringe trim, because I just couldn't resist.  :)
Repeat the process to decorate all of your tubes.  Then carefully insert your pics into the top through the foam.

To finish it off, put some hot glue on the foam and gently press some mailing filler on top to cover it.
That's it!  This is such a fun craft and a perfect way to decorate for July 4th!

What are your favorite 4th of July memories?  I'd love to hear!

Happy crafting!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Magical Morning with Minions

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #The7thMinion #CollectiveBias

Kids will look forward to breakfast time with these easy DIY Minions Cups and some big-time excitement unveiling a Minions toy in their cereal box!
I remember, growing up, actually getting butterflies in my stomach about being the first to open a box of cereal and see what little prize was inside.  It didn't happen often, coming from a large family, but when it did, I was beyond thrilled!

I got to watch my kids have the same experience the other day and it made my heart sing.

My kids literally talk about going to see the new Minions Movie every day.  We are counting down impatiently until July 10th.  Anytime they see a preview for it, they bounce on their seats and do a big belly laugh.  It's just too cute.

We've even resorted to speaking "Minion" around here.  Words like "ba-boy" for "toy" and "bapple" for "apple".  On occasion, I have to ask the kids to translate, because I'm not accustomed to the language yet. :)  It will happen in time.
So when we were at Walmart the other day on the cereal aisle and saw the specially marked Minions General Mills Cereal boxes, we just about did flips!  If people weren't watching, we just might have.  :)  

The kids had a difficult time refraining from opening the boxes then and there.
The anticipation of "Which Minion will I get?" and "Will it be the elusive 7th Minion?" was just too much!  The 7th, Prehistoric Minion, is only at Walmart!
But, each Minions movie marked General Mills Cereal box includes an adorable collectible Minion toy.  It's impossible to go wrong.
Drums were rolling, hands were shaking, as my son ripped open the Cheerios box and found...

...Dracula Minion!  My daughter was thrilled to see the Caveman Minion in her box of Trix.

Then, and only then, did the kids discover that they were actually quite hungry.  Distractions such as this have a way of making you forget.  :)

We made some sweet little Minion Paper Cups for our breakfast drinks.  They are SO easy to throw together and the kids carried them around the house for a while afterwards because they were too fun to put down.
You'll just need some yellow paper cups, double-stick tape (I'd recommend hot glue for more permanency), big googly eyes and a wide-tipped permanent marker.

Place your googly eye on the cup and trace around it with a pen.  Draw a black permanent marker line around this and then replace the eye.  Draw marker lines out from the eye or eyes for the straps.  Don't forget the silly, smiley face!

Now enjoy a cold glass of milk or juice to finish off the Magical Minion Morning!

Which Minions toy are your kids looking forward to finding first?  

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Shrimp and Feta Fire-Roasted Tomato Pasta


This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Ronzoni, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #RonzoniSummer  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Summertime to me means light and healthy, simple meals, and this Shrimp and Feta Fire-Roasted Pasta recipe definitely fits the bill! It's a gorgeously colorful, veggie-loaded dish the whole family will enjoy!
When it's hot outside, the last thing I want to do is slave over a stove for hours on end.  Yet I still like to enjoy a yummy homemade meal with my family around the table whenever I can.  This is why I've fallen in love with today's Italian pasta salad.

I'm always looking for ways to work vegetables into my kids' diets.  They fight me tooth and nail if I set a pile of green beans or corn kernels on their plate.  It can be exhausting encouraging and coaching them to, "Eat your veggies!" every day.  Are you having the same ongoing battle at your dinner table?
As moms, sometimes we have to get a little bit clever and "outsmart" our picky kids, if you know what I mean.  In fact, I make a game of "tricking" my kiddos into consuming vegetables without even knowing it.  It's quite entertaining!

So when I saw this Ronzoni Garden Delight Trio Italiano pasta on the shelves at Walmart, I knew it was soon to be on the menu, and I came up with a delicious and out-of-the-ordinary way to use it.  It includes one portion of vegetables for every 4 oz. portion!  That's a definite win in my book.

Find out if a store near you has Ronzoni Pasta with this handy store locator.

Now you can save on Ronzoni pasta with one of these two coupons!  Receive $1.00 off any two Garden Delight items with a coupon in most newspapers on 6/28/15 (while supplies last). Or receive $0.55 off with an in-store coupon at Walmart starting 6/22/15. Offer expires 8/2/15 (while supplies last).
I made sure to include them in the preparation process too.  I find that when my kids help out in the kitchen, they are much more willing to try the results of their labors.  And, often times, when they are brave enough to take a bite, they are surprised to find that they actually love it!
Oh boy did we enjoy this beautiful concoction!  A perfect marriage of shrimp, pasta, feta, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, and steamed sugar snap peas that just begs you to take a bite!

{SHRIMP AND FETA FIRE-ROASTED TOMATO PASTA}

12 oz. Large Shrimp, peeled, and deveined
1 pkg. (12 oz.) Ronzoni Trio Italiano Garden Delight Pasta
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire-roasted garlic diced tomatoes
1 tsp. basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 oz. Feta cheese
8 oz. sugar snap peas, steamed

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.  Cook garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add shrimp and cook while flipping and stirring, until pink, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Sprinkle 1 tsp. basil on top of shrimp and toss to coat evenly.  

In a large bowl, toss together pasta, shrimp, diced tomatoes (undrained), and steamed sugar snap peas.  Top each serving with Feta and enjoy!
This is what I call a simple meal that tastes and looks like it took hours to put together!  You'll fool everyone and it's sure to get rave reviews!  Plus, I'm one proud lady, watching my family enjoy a wholesome and delightful, good-for-you meal with all those veggies!
To help my kids get even more excited about eating vegetables, I put together a simple and fun matching game for them to play.  Not all cards are shown above.

Download and print your complete set of Vegetable Matching Cards, click on the links below:
Document 1
Document 2

Print on white cardstock in color for best results.  You'll need to trim the cards on the edges to be the same sizes as the others.

My kids never even suspected there were veggies infused in the pasta!  Shhhh....it's our little secret.  :)

Be sure to follow Ronzoni on Facebook and Twitter for more great recipe ideas!

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Easy Homemade Caramel Sauce

I'm so excited to have Kelley from The Grant Life here again to share a recipe to make us all hungry!

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Easy and delicious, this homemade caramel sauce only takes a little time and a few basic ingredients.
 Hey I Dig Pinterest friends!  It's Kelley from the Grant life back again to share another easy homemade recipe with yall!  Last month I shared an easy raspberry sauce recipe.  I hope you had a chance to try it because it is amazing!  (And perfect on fluffy pancakes!) Today I have an equally easy and delicious recipe - homemade caramel sauce!  I always use to buy this stuff from the store until I realized how easy it is to make at home.  Just a few simple ingredients and you are on your way to ooey, gooey homemade caramel perfection! How to make homemade caramel sauce at home
 I actually used this caramel to make salted caramel granola and then in a salted caramel parfait.  Both heavenly!  To make your own caramel sauce you will need:
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream
In a medium sauce pan melt the stick over butter of medium heat.  Add in the brown sugar and the heavy cream.  Stir constantly, allowing the sugar to dissolve.  Let boil for 3ish minutes.  Remove from heat.  The caramel sauce will thicken on its own.  Place in a sealable jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. Easy homemade caramel sauce recipe

 See?  That wasn't hard at all!  And now you have a jar of totally delicious caramel sauce that you can use on anything.  I like it on ice cream and crepes!  Thanks so much for having me again this month.  I enjoy sharing easy recipes with yall!  If you have the time, be sure to stop by the Grant life and say hello!  I'll see yall next month!

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I'm drooling over this sauce!   I'm all about three ingredients, too!  Here's a few more of Kelley's recipes that I think you'll love:



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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#ad Grandma's Famous Potato Salad

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. 
#SummerYum #CollectiveBias

Today I'm excited to share a recipe with you that's very near and dear to my heart.  My Grandma's Potato Salad simply cannot be beat and is the perfect companion to a yummy basket of fried chicken from the Walmart deli!

Growing up, we'd visit my grandma (my mom's mother) at least once a month, on a Sunday evening.  I have fond memories of those times.  She'd serve us homemade Raisin Buns or Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with a big bowl of ice cream.  We'd sit around the table enjoying our refreshments while Grandma reminisced about the "good old days" when life was simpler and everyone knew each other in the small mining town where she was raised.  

On occasion, we'd visit her on a special holiday or birthday for a celebratory barbecue/potluck.  We'd always have my mom call ahead and ensure that she was making her potato salad.  It was the highlight of the entire meal every time, even taking into account dessert!  

If she said she was too tired that particular day to make it, we'd plead with her and even volunteer to chop the potatoes. :)  There was just something about the way grandma made it, or maybe it was all the love she put into it that came through in the incredible flavor.  In either case, this particular potato salad was and is out-of-this-world delicious. 

She'd always smack my uncle's hand when he was caught with a spoon in the Tupperware bowl before the call of "Dinner's ready!".  We kids would laugh and encourage him to give it another go when her back was turned.  :)
 So the other evening, when I picked up some fried chicken at my Walmart deli, I knew Grandma's Potato Salad, which I had prepped earlier that day, was the perfect answer for a summer side dish!  
I love that the chicken is fresh, hot and ready to eat.  I also appreciate that I can grab it at the end of my grocery shopping trip and dinner's pretty much ready when I get home!  And, there's a variety for everyone!  

Also, did you know that at the Walmart deli you can purchase single pieces of chicken, buckets of chicken, and even order it in bulk (best when done in advance)?!  This fried chicken is perfect for upcoming 4th of July get-togethers and other summer gatherings!
I of course had to grab some hot wings too, because they are my hubby's favorite.

This chicken was made to be served with a chunky potato salad, so that's just what I did.

My Grandma never measured the ingredients.  She'd just throw in a little of this and a little of that, and it always just worked like magic.  But now, I think I've perfected it enough that I'm able to replicate its incredible flavor pretty well in my own kitchen, if I do say so myself.  :)  

So here's how to make it just like Grandma did.  

{GRANDMA'S FAMOUS POTATO SALAD}

6 regular-sized potatoes, boiled with skin on
3 eggs, hard boiled, plus one or two more for garnish
1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 whole dill pickles, finely diced

Sauce:
1 cup Miracle Whip
2 tsp. yellow mustard (add another teaspoon if you like it more mustard-y)
Salt to taste (1 tsp. or less)
2 Tbsp. dill pickle juice

Peel and chop cooked potatoes once cooled.  Place in a large bowl.
Top potatoes with diced egg, onion and pickles.  Prepare sauce by stirring together Miracle Whip, mustard and salt.  Next, stir in pickle juice.  You may add up to 1 Tbsp. more pickle juice if you feel like the mixture needs to be thinned further.  Pour sauce mixture over and carefully stir/toss all of it together so as not to break potatoes.

Top with large egg slices and a sprinkling of paprika as garnish, if desired.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Now my Grandma is in poor health and of course hasn't felt up to making this salad for years, but the memory of it still lives strong in our minds.  

Although mine may never taste quite the same without her special touch, I get to enjoy this heirloom "famous" recipe as often as I'd like with a basket of fried chicken, while remembering the good times that were had at Grandma's house.   

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