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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Brookie (brownie cookie) Oreo Bars

The ultimate dessert combination...a brownie and a cookie, and as if that wasn't phenomenal enough, OREO cookies are embedded within. 
Have you ever eaten at Kneader's Bakery & Cafe?  It's a chain restaurant located in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and Texas. It's the best ever!

Last year during my family's annual ski vacation to Utah, we hit up the place...twice. Once for breakfast and a different day for lunch.

 The bottomless french toast with homemade caramel syrup, whipped cream and strawberries...I can't even.  And the turkey and cranberry sauce croissant sandwich...there are no words. 

If you're ever in one of the areas where it's located, you must stop.  

Anyhow, I love to gawk at their desserts displayed in the glass cabinets while I'm in line.  They all make my mouth drop and water, but this particular day, the brownie cookie bars caught my eye.  Not only did they involve fudgey, chocolatey brownies and chocolate chip cookie dough, but they had OREO cookies stuffed in the middle!  That white cream filling was just oozing and begging me to partake!
My interest was more than piqued and I knew this had to be the best and most brilliant idea anyone has ever had in the history of the world.  So I purchased one for myself (I may have been kind enough to share a bite with my hubby) and the rest is history.  I knew I needed to make them at home since I can't just drive hundreds of miles to get my Kneader's fix every time the urge hits (which is often).

So while I was visiting family over Christmas break, I had the perfect opportunity to run some tests in my parent's kitchen and I came up with the most delectable delight ever known to mankind.


1 box of your favorite brownie mix, prepared according to package directions
1/2 recipe of this chocolate chip cookie dough
20 Double Stuf OREOs, or more if desired (double-stuffed is way better!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions and spread into a greased 9"x13" pan.  Place whole OREO cookies on top of the brownie batter as closely together as possible. Prepare 1/2 recipe of cookie dough according to directions, then grab small portions, flatten them in your hand, and place on top of the brownie batter.  Piece them as close together as possible.

Tip: If the brownie recipe offers two versions, cake-like or fudge-like, be sure to make the fudge-like.

Cover pan with foil (to prevent the cookie dough from browning too much) and bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or just until bars are cooked through but not dry.  Let cool mostly, cut into squares, and enjoy!

I don't trust myself with a pan of brownies, let alone when it's combined with my number one choice in cookie dough and then infused with my favorite store-bought cookie ever, so I set the freshly-baked goodness out on the counter and my siblings made it disappear in a hurry.

The best part about them is that they don't involve a ton of work because they use a brownie mix for the base!  I prefer brownie mixes to the homemade variety, so it was a total win in my book.

But they had to have a homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, so that's just what happened.
These bars have more brownie than cookie, but if you want to switch up the ratio, just double the cookie dough portion and let it bake for longer.  Or, you can always reduce the brownie portion in half (just use half the batter and save the rest for another time) and then make the full recipe of cookie dough for different results.  So many options, you just can't go wrong!

Oh, and be sure to squeeze those OREOs as tightly together as you can in the pan, because you'll thank yourself later! 

I want to be best friends with these bars. I think I will.
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Monday, February 8, 2016

Host a Simple Galentine's Party!

Thank you Shari's Berries for providing the goodies for today's party!

Invite your girlfriends over for a fun Valentines, i.e. "Galentines" celebration with chocolate-covered strawberries, pretzels and frosted heart cutout sugar cookies!

It's no secret that parties have a "stressful" stigma attached to them.  There's the planning, invitations, the food prep, putting it all together and then clean up afterwards.  

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I knew I wanted to host a gathering with some of my wonderful friends, but I didn't have the extra time to put into it.  
So I set up a simple dessert buffet with festive treats from Shari's Berries
and some homemade sugar cookies, and I didn't even break a sweat!  

You know how I love a good excuse to party, and I figured why not get together with some of my gal pals for a little pre-Valentine's Day bash?  We had the best time chatting and laughing.  Since I moved to the mountains a few months back, the winter months have a way of making me feel a little bit isolated, so this was a great opportunity to host guests and get in some girl time with friends that I have missed so dearly.  :)
Someone needs to educate me in the ways of the selfie, but these amazing ladies...I don't know what I'd do without them!  They mean so much to me. I loved celebrating our friendships in a fun Galentines get-together.

I just love how it all came together.  A ladies' party just wouldn't be complete without loads of chocolate, now would it?  :)  There's nothing more gorgeous than a cake platter full of chocolate-dipped strawberries or a platter of chocolate chip-studded pretzel rods!  We were all in heaven!  Go HERE for some great Shari's Berries coupons and discounts.

I set the buffet up on a dresser in my living area.  I threw together a heart doily banner strung with baker's twine and hung it in the background.  I lined the dresser with pink polka-dotted wrapping paper and scattered some heart doilies around.  Then I hung this diy felt heart bunting on the knobs for some added Valentine's pizzazz.
I made some Accordion Paper Hearts for another simple, inexpensive decor piece. 
 To make these, simply cut out cardstock hearts, fold two patterned paper accordions (the width and length will depend on the size of your heart), attach the pieces together with hot glue and then glue in place to the top center of the heart.  Then pull the accordion pieces around the heart form, hot glue in place, then hot glue the pieces together again at the bottom center of the heart, and finish by gluing that to the cardstock heart form.  So easy and super cute!  I glued mine to some wooden dowels and placed them in a pretty mini bucket filled with glass rocks. 
I also served up some soft and yummy heart-shaped sugar cookies with pink buttercream frosting and sprinkles.   
Yum, yum! 

I think I will make this an annual tradition!  Will you be having a Galentines gathering this year?  There's still time to pull one together!

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Meal in a Dish

This comforting chili macaroni casserole, packed with pasta, beef, beans and corn, then topped with oodles of melty cheese is sure to become a family favorite! 

My sweet grandma passed away just after Christmas.  I was so glad that I happened to be visiting from out-of-state at the time and got to be at her bedside in the hospital to squeeze her hand and say my tearful goodbyes.  

I have fond memories, growing up, of visiting her on Sundays.  She'd make our most-requested Raisin Buns or Raisin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and serve them up with a big bowl of ice cream.  We'd sit around the table and she'd tell us stories of her growing up days in a small mining town or relate to my mother about an old friend that she'd seen while out and about.  She made us laugh without even trying.

She prided herself in her grasp of tough vocabulary and would often use big words in a sentence and then define them for us before continuing on with her story.  I'm pretty sure the dictionary was a common piece of literature to her. :)

How I miss her, but I'm so grateful to know that this life is not the end and that I'll see her again.

My taste buds will never forget what an amazing cook she was, and I'm ever thankful that she passed these skills onto her daughter, my mother, who in turn taught me to love being in the kitchen.

I also have her to thank for this phenomenal Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cake and Southern Pound Cake.
After the funeral services, back at my parent's house, I was sitting, reminiscing with my mom about my Grandma.  I asked her what her favorite foods were that her mom had made for her and her five siblings, growing up.  I told her how I wanted to re-create them so I could always have them as a way to remember my grandma.

 Mom said that it was important to grandma to always have a warm, homemade meal on the table when her father got home from work.  She made a large batch of bread once a week and kneaded it by hand.  It took hours, but the results were irresistible.  She enjoyed baking goodies and taking them, with her children by her side, to those who were in need in their church.  Mom said she was often frustrated with this because she wanted to be the recipient of the treats rather than handing them off, but that she learned to appreciate what her mom had taught her with these simple, yet meaningful gestures.
Grandma often made what she referred to as "Meal in a Dish", which I'm sharing with you today.  It incorporates veggies and protein, canned chili and pasta with a finishing touch of cheese for a hearty, completely satisfying, tasty dinner.

This is the kind of meal you take to someone who's just had a baby or who's in need of a lift.  It feeds a crowd and is sure to cheer them up in a hurry!

Makes one 9"x13" pan

1 lb. hamburger
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp. garlic, minced (optional)
1/2 tsp. chili powder (optional)
1 can chili with beans (15 oz.), I like Hormel
1 can corn (15 oz.), drained
3 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
2 c. elbow macaroni
1 green bell pepper, insides removed, diced
2 cups shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese, divided

Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet over the stovetop, cook hamburger , crumbling, with onion, green pepper, and garlic, until no longer pink.  Drain grease.

Stir chili, corn, tomato sauce, macaroni, and 1 cup shredded cheese with the cooked hamburger mixture.  Pour into a lightly greased 9"x13" casserole dish.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, covered with foil, for approximately 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove the foil, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of cheese (or more), and return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and hot.

**I've listed certain ingredients as optional.  These are the ones I added because I'm big on flavor, but the dish can certainly stand on its own without them.  You can always taste the mixture before pouring it into the casserole dish and judge whether you'd like to add the chili powder.  I didn't add the chili powder but then my husband and I drizzled hot sauce over our portions before enjoying it and it was perfection!  Alternatively, you can sub in a can of hot chili with beans, if everyone is ok with a little heat.
While I made this, I couldn't help but reflect on the wonderful life my grandmother lived and how grateful I am that she raised such an amazing lady to be my mother.

I'll be sharing another recipe soon in remembrance of my grandma and then I'll finish off later with a collection of best-loved recipes from her kitchen that I've posted here on the blog.

I hope you enjoy this dish!  My family loved it and we inhaled the yummy leftovers for a few evenings afterwards, too.  Hooray for not having to cook every night of the week!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jumping Frog Valentine

This inexpensive "You make my heart leap" Frog Toy Valentine is sure to be a hit with the kids at the class exchange!
My kids can't wait for February 12th to arrive (since Valentine's Day lands on a Sunday this year) so they can hand out goodies to their school friends.  We'll most likely be giving out the "Treat" Valentines that I posted last week, but I wanted to share another fun idea today that's non-food and non-candy, since we know there will be plenty of that to go around.  I'll be tucking these in the kids' mailboxes to surprise them one morning leading up to the special day.
I found these adorable jumping frogs at Walmart in the seasonal section.  There are eight in a pack for just $1!  It doesn't get much cheaper than that!  I love how colorful they are against the pink gingham background of the cards.
My kids could play with these things for hours, so I came up with a cheesy-cute phrase to incorporate them into a fun Valentine for their friends.

You can add the To: and From: at the top.  Simply print them out on white cardstock, cut along the dotted lines and secure a toy frog to the heart with some washi tape.  Super easy and oh so cute!

**Printables from I Dig Pinterest are for PERSONAL USE ONLY.  They are not made to sell.  If you'd like to post them on the internet, please use one image and credit with a link back to the specific post on I Dig Pinterest.  Please don't alter my images to be posted elsewhere. 

These adorable Valentine's sentiments come together quickly and are sure to get the kids excited. 

Happy Love Day!


Here are some more fun class Valentine ideas from past years.

Ring Pop Valentine

Clothespin Alligator Valentine

Rice Krispies "Treat" Valentine"

Perler Beads Valentine
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Monday, February 1, 2016

"Thank Goodness" Gift with Paper Bow Tutorial

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

Tell an encouraging friend you care with some goodnessknows® snack squares in a pretty glass jar and topped with a DIY paper bow!
I mentioned not long ago that I started a fitness journey after I had my last baby, five months ago (time flies!).  I wasn't able to exercise much throughout the pregnancy because of complications.  So I knew that once my sweet little boy was here, I needed to make an extra effort to get back in shape, and I was determined to do so.  I even created a workout incentives station to help me on my way.  

But I also knew that in order to accomplish my goal, I needed a support system...someone or a few individuals whom I love and love me back who could encourage, inspire and cheer me on.

So, because I consider my sisters my best friends, I enlisted their help during this time to keep me accountable.  I asked them to make a point of checking in on me to see how I was coming along in my goal.
They haven't failed me.  We text back and forth on a daily basis, talking about how much we sweat during our workout that morning, how good it hurt, or how we won the battle over our eating habits that day.  And let's be real here...getting in a 30 minute exercise block is a great feat with little kiddos in the home!

But there've also been days where I haven't come out on top.  Yet I knew I could go to my wonderful sisters for a mental and emotional boost and the motivation to keep going.  

They've kept me grounded, positive and moving forward in full force, so I wanted to thank them in a special, heartfelt way.
Because I have a thing for goodnessknows® snack squares (I reward myself with them often) and because they just happen to fit perfectly into my cheesy-cute play on words, I grabbed a bunch and made a gift to express my gratitude.
They're easy to find near the checkout stand at Walmart.

They come in three irresistible varieties: goodnessknows® Cranberry, Almond, Dark Chocolate; goodnessknows® Apple, Almond & Peanut, Dark Chocolate; and goodnessknows® Peach & Cherry, Almond, Dark Chocolate. I just can't decide which one I like best! They are all too yummy.
Guess what? You can be in the running to win one of two $500 gift cards up for grabs each week for three weeks beginning January 18th!  Enter below!

2016 #TryALittleGoodness Sweepstakes

Since my sisters and I have very similar tastes and since you'd be crazy not to like these goodness-loaded snack squares, I placed a generous amount of them in a glass jar with a lid and then embellished it with a handmade paper bow and a fun gift tag (download the tag below).
This bow is the perfect way to dress up the jar and comes together in just a few minutes!


Patterned paper (1-3 varieties)
Hot Glue
Paper Cutter

Cut three strips of paper measuring the lengths noted in the image above.
Bring the two ends together to meet in the middle with the patterned side facing up.  Allow them to overlap a little (about 1/2") and glue in place.  Place another dot of hot glue in the center underneath and press together to hold in place.  Repeat for the other two strips of paper.  

Now glue the pieces on top of each other, with the largest piece on bottom and the smallest on top.  Glue each in place with a dot of hot glue in the center. Now hot glue the button on top, hot glue it to the lid and you're done!

Download and print your "Thank Goodness" gift tags here.  I printed mine on white cardstock and then attached it with baker's twine.

Do you have a special someone to thank with this goodnessknows® gift who's helping you along in your efforts to be the best you?  Now that I've told my story, I'd love to hear yours in the comments section below!

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Treat" Valentine Idea with Free Printable Tags

These Rice Krispies "Treat" Valentines are sure to be a hit at the kids' school class party on the special day!
I don't think I've ever met a child who doesn't love Rice Krispies treats, so I put together a fun sentiment for love day surrounding the yummy snack.  

My kids are getting eager for February to arrive so we can bring out their mailboxes and so they can start receiving surprises in them each morning. I and the kids write kind notes to each other some of the days and then they open the boxes to find small, inexpensive or handmade treasures on other days leading up to the 14th.

It's a perfect opportunity to express our love more purposefully to each other. 
I remember coming home with my class list and then filling out Valentines for each student and making a check next to each name.  I enjoyed taping the little candy on and then handing them out at school with pride.

My mom would help me decorate a shoe box to store my treasures in each year.  I had a blast gluing on pink, red, and white construction paper hearts and glittering the surfaces.

Now, rather than purchasing Valentines cards, I like to ask my kids for ideas of what to give and a cute phrase to accompany it and then design the card myself. There's just something about "homemade" that really says it's from the heart.

And then we spend the evening before the kids' Valentine's class party together at the kitchen table cutting, labeling and taping while catching up about our week.

This year I'll have two school kiddos to oversee, which will mean we'll be manufacturing 48 Valentines, but I love it!

**Printables from I Dig Pinterest are for PERSONAL USE ONLY.  They are not made to sell.  If you'd like to post them on the internet, please use one image and credit with a link back to the specific post on I Dig Pinterest.  Please don't alter my images to be posted elsewhere. 

I just bought a big box of individually-wrapped Rice Krispies Treats at Walmart, printed the tags on white cardstock, had the kids label them, cut and adhere them with double-sided tape.
I always can't wait to see my kids come bursting through the door on Valentine's Day with their loot and huge grins on their faces.  And then it's like Halloween all over when I try to help them to not eat it all in one sitting.  :)

How many valentines will your kids (or you) be making this year?

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Loaded BBQ Chicken Potato Wedges

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

Baked Parmesan Potato Wedges with Barbecue Chicken Bites, sour cream and green onions are the ultimate, no-sweat game day snack! Serve them in fry boxes for easy enjoyment!
I'm loving all the yummy appetizers I'm seeing popping up all over blog land and Pinterest lately.  Game day is fast approaching and I'm looking forward to some down time with family, but especially the delicious foods that accompany.

There's nothing that says, "There's a big game on t.v." like some BBQ chicken, am I right?  So I've paired it with some homemade, seasoned-to-perfection potato wedges for an amazing duo! The result is an irresistible handheld delight that's sure to please those party guests.
And because I believe in having no shortage of BBQ sauce, I drizzled it with a generous amount.  

Growing up, a few of my brothers got into playing football.  They'd pad up and hit the grass with my uncles when we had family gatherings.  As the older (very concerned sister) I'd stand at the sidelines with my fingers running nervously through my hair, just hoping no one would get knocked out or lose a tooth.  

Now that I'm a mother, I'm not sure how I'd handle it if one of my sons wanted to join the high school football team or something on a larger scale.   I'd add quite a few grey hairs to my collection, for sure.  At least it's years down the road, but I still think about it and know that the day will come before I'm ready for it. 
You can bet I'd be on the sidelines rooting for my boy, but not without starting a nail-biting habit. :)

There's something about a box of BBQ chicken and homemade potato fries that helps to calm those jitters and worries.  And, because it's not my son exposed to the hazard, I might actually enjoy watching a few good plays on t.v. during the big game.  Though we we're not die-hard football watching fans here, we do enjoy good food, and isn't that a huge part of it?  :)
I ran to Walmart and grabbed some components for making today's delectable recipe.  FarmRich products make game day appetizers a breeze!  
The chicken bites are perfectly crispy on the outside and yet still tender on the inside after baking, just like I like them.  They're also made of all-white meat and protein-packed for the perfect fill-you-up snack!

Farm Rich Snacks are Real-Life Good and make game day gatherings easy so you can spend more time cheering and less time cooking!  I'm all about that!

Visit the Game Day Landing Page for coupons and to sign up for the FarmRich loyalty club.  And, you can become a SuperFan by entering the sweepstakes for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Walmart or one year of free FarmRich products!
I baked up the Barbecue Boneless Chicken Bites to accompany the taters, but you can bet I'll be whipping up some delicious sliders with the Smokehouse Pulled Pork BBQ later.  
Fills about 6 fry boxes.

Approximately 3 lbs. potatoes, washed, dried, and cut into wedges
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. grated parmesan
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 pkg. FarmRich Barbecue Boneless Chicken Bites (17 oz.)

Sour Cream
Green Onions, diced
Additional Barbecue Sauce

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray it with nonstick cooking spray.  In a re-sealable gallon-size bag, toss together potato wedges and olive oil.  In a bowl, stir together parmesan, garlic and onion powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper.  Pour into the bag with the potatoes, seal, and use your hands to move the dry mixture around in the bag until all the potatoes are coated.  

Pour the potatoes out onto prepared cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are browning and cooked through.  I removed mine from the oven about 10 minutes before they were done to turn all the potatoes over for even browning.

Bake FarmRich Barbecue Boneless Chicken Bites according to package directions, at the same time as the potato wedges, if possible.  Pour the barbecue sauce packet into a microwave-safe bowl and warm for 30 seconds in the microwave.  Pour over baked chicken bites in a bowl and toss to coat.  Serve a mix of wedges and chicken bites in fry boxes, topped with sour cream, diced green onions and additional barbecue sauce, if desired.  Serve immediately.
Game day calls for easy and delicious appetizers and these Loaded BBQ Chicken Potato Wedges totally fit the bill!  I promise this one will be a hit!

What foods will you be serving at your game day gathering?

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