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Easy Chicken Parmesean Pasta Salad

>> Thursday, June 30, 2011

I love Pasta salads this time of year.  I hate to heat up the kitchen by running the oven, but a good pasta salad can be hard to find.  Here's a simple recipe for one that I've made a few times already this year. It's easy and quick!

You can make this ahead of time...just stir before serving.  Depending on how far in advance you make it, you might also want to add a little extra mayo just prior to serving as well...

1package Betty Crocker® Suddenly Salad® Caesar pasta salad mix
1/4cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4cup milk
2cups cubed cooked chicken - I grilled mine!
1medium cucumber, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
1medium tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped (3/4 cup) - I use 2 Roma Tomatoes

  1. Step 1:  Cook and drain contents of uncooked pasta pouch (from salad mix box) as directed on box. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water. Shake well to drain.
  2. Step 2:  In large bowl, stir contents of seasoning & crouton blend pouch (from salad mix box), the mayonnaise and milk until well blended. Stir in cooked pasta and remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 hours before serving.


Kids say the darndest things!

>> Tuesday, June 28, 2011

So, this past weekend, we went out of town for a family reunion.  Now, I don't mind going to family reunions, and this one was special because we got to see my husband's cousin.  Why is that special?  Because about a year ago he joined the Army.  After basic training, he was/is stationed in Fort Hood, TX and in July he will be shipping out to Iraq.  He doesn't have his exact deployment dates yet, but he does have some of his orders and he will be helping in "turning out the lights" to the Army operations over there.  Scary, but we know he will be in God's hands.

Anyway, this was my husband's father's side of the family reunion.  They are mainly from the Northern Ohio area, between Columbus and Cleveland.  I say this only because the area has a high concentration of Amish and Mennonite people.  The boys loved the last 30 minutes of the drive to get there because they got to see lots of horses, cows and other animals.  It was great because our DVD player decided to stop working and I was dreading the last part of the trip because that's when they have usually had enough.

So, this family reunion is held in a church's gymnasium and has a "business meeting" in which they read the minutes from last year's reunion as well as go over new family information, introduce everyone and their family, etc.  I'm not sure if this is normal because my side of the family doesn't do reunions, but it seems a little odd to me.

Needless to say, the kids didn't want to stay quiet during this portion of the reunion, so I ended up taking them outside to play.  The church is located right next to an Amish farm, so we were able to look at the horses, cows, sheep and watch them get the Clydesdale horses with a plow out.  The boys were in heaven!

While we were out there, the boys said a couple of priceless things and I wanted to share...

After watching the animals for a while, we visited the swing set on the church property.  The boys love to swing and could do it for hours.  While the boys are only 2 and 3.5 years old, they love to go as high as the swing set will allow, so they usually beg to "go higher, mommy!"  Usually this involves going "higher than the trees" or "higher than the sky", but this time my 2 year old wanted to go "higher than his shoes".   He had his legs sticking out in front of him, so going higher than his shoes was something he thought he could do :)

Also, while out on the swings, my almost 4 year old said, "I need more air!"  But this doesn't mean what you might think.  Nope, he's been saying this for the past couple weeks and after further investigating, I have found that it means he is thirsty.  The only connection I can find is that it means he wants some of my diet soda, which makes him burp.  So, while someone else might think that either he wants to be pushed higher on the swings or that I don't allow him enough air to breathe, it just means he wants some pop because he is thirsty and wants to burp!

And finally, after the reunion was over, we went out the door to say goodbye to the animals next door and to get our puppy.  The Amish boy who lived on the farm next door was at the fence watching everyone.  So, my almost 4 year old decided to go say hi.  I was fine with this...I've always been fascinated with the Amish/Mennonite community and I thought it would be neat for Tyler to talk with him.  But the first thing out of Tyler's mouth?  "Are you a cowboy?"  Seriously?!  He had a hat on, so Tyler thought he was a cowboy.  The little boy ended up not responding to Tyler's question and I tried to explain that the little boy was just wearing a hat but wasn't a cowboy.  Tyler didn't get it, though.  I'm hoping that the little boy spoke Dutch and didn't understand what Tyler asked :)

I love my boys and despite some of the embarrassing things they say, they do provide lots of laughs!


Peanut Butter Pretzels

>> Sunday, June 26, 2011

Make these immediately! You won't regret it (until you wake up tomorrow and your pants are tighter, not that I know that from experience or anything). These taste like Take 5 bars, only better in my opinion.


1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tbsp softened butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar


1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips


Combine peanut butter and softened butter in a large bowl with a fork or whisk, or in a stand mixer. Add the sugars and mix to combine. Put mixture in the fridge for a little while until you are able to roll it into balls.

Use a teaspoon measure to scoop the filling. Roll each portion into a small ball, then sandwich them between two whole pretzels. When all the balls are rolled and successfully sandwiched, stick the whole tray in the freezer for about half an hour.

Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat at 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted. Remove the pretzel sandwiches from the freezer and quickly dip each half-way into the melted chocolate. Return to the tray and repeat with remaining sandwiches. When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely. Store the sandwiches in the refrigerator until serving time.


Homemade Churros Recipe

>> Saturday, June 25, 2011

So, Thursday night this past week was Mexican night at our house.  I wasn't feeling very good all day (pregnancy crap, AGAIN) and didn't feel like cooking anything for dinner.  In fact, the only thing I got accomplished on Thursday was a quick trip to the grocery store.  To most of my friends who think I'm "super mom" and do 50 million things a day, I realize this might be shocking; I know.  But really, my house was a mess and I needed to do laundry, but I just didn't have it in me to do those tasks.  But we were out of milk and eggs, so a trip to the grocery store was necessary.

Anyway, I saw some Taco Shells on sale at the grocery store and realized that I think my older son had only had tacos one other time in his life.  They are so easy to make, but I never think of it.  So, I bought the shells and already had everything else I needed.  

That afternoon as I was prepping everything for dinner, I took a quick break to look at my blog feed.  You know, 'cause I'm addicted.  I found a Homemade Churro recipe that I thought looked good.  I have made curros before, but they weren't the greatest and I thought it was time for a new recipe.

Um, these were delicious!  I'll spare you photos of the process because Joy the Baker does such a wonderful job.  Check out her post and her notes on how the process works.  They are easy, but like she said, there were several times in the process I thought I had ruined it.  She made a dark chocolate sauce for dipping, but I didn't and I think they were still wonderful.  This also made more than our family could eat at once and they really don't keep well overnight (I tried, by golly).  So find a friend and share them :)

Here's the recipe:

Homemade Churros and Hot Dark Chocolate
makes about 20 small churros, from The NY Times

canola or vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs

Add enough oil to a large saucepan or deep skillet to measure 2-inches deep. Attach a candy/deep fry thermometer to to side of the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter, water, 1 tablespoon of sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add flour all at once. Quickly stir together with a spatula until no lumps remain, and the mixture begins to form a ball. This will take about 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from heat and place loose dough ball in a large bowl.

With a spatula, beat the eggs into the dough one egg at a time. The mixture may appear to be a broken mess, but keep stirring. Keep the faith.

After the eggs are added, the mixture will be slightly gummy and slightly thick. That’s perfect.

Spoon batter into a large pastry, or strong Ziplock bag with a Aceto 829 (large open star) tip attached.

Heat the oil, over medium heat, to 350 degrees F.

Carefully pipe about 4 inch long dough segments into the hot oil. Use a pair of kitchen sheers to cut the dough from the star tip. It’s hard not to splash yourself with hot oil, just be as careful as possible.

Fry dough for 5 to 7 minutes. This might seem like a long time, but the dough through the center needs to cook through. The churros will be a deep golden brown, and may split slightly when cooked. Keep an eye on the timer. Remove churros from hot oil and place on a paper towel. After slightly de-greased, toss in cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a plate to serve.


4th of July treats

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I loved Beth's list of blogs she reads!! If you don't already use google reader, you should definitely start!

I've been seeing several 4th of July desserts on the web that look really good, so I thought I'd share. I haven't actually made any of these, so I can't say how they taste. Click on the title for the link to the recipes.

Two desserts from the blog Glorious Treats:

Cupcakes in a Jar

4th of July Cake - I love the little pendant banner

Red, White and Blue Jello

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Flag Cake - Taste of Home donates 10 cents to the USO for every visit to this recipe

Printable Art -- here's a cute printable too. Just print it and stick it in a frame. (you need to click the link and then click the "download" button on the eighteen25 blog)


Blogs I Follow

I'm a blog addict.  I'll admit it.  Most of you reading this blog probably follow a couple blogs written by a few friends (mine is one, I hope!) and maybe a few mom blogs or coupon blogs.  Well, I currently subscribe to 71 different blogs on my Google Reader.  Yep, 71.  And at this moment, I have 292 blog posts that I would like to read.

To start with, I organize my blogs into several different categories.  Here are the categories I have:

Personal:  These blogs are all personal friends and family.  I won't share most of the links I have in this category because most of the followers of these blogs are just their friends and family, but I do have one I would like to share.  I used to work at the National MS Society (my first full-time job out of college, actually!) with Emily.  Her cousin, Jenny worked there right before I got there as well.  These two wonderful ladies started a blog and it's actually the first blog I started following (thanks, for starting the addiction, ladies!).  Anyway, they have a good mix of mom posts, recipes, deals, and product reviews.

Cakes:  My home-business is cake decorating (Eat Cake!, though I'm currently taking a break due to pregnancy issues and then giving myself time to adjust to 3 kiddos) cakes and special occasion cakes.  I subscribe to 22 different blogs in this category.  Some bloggers post tutorials, some post recipes and some just post photos of their amazing work!  Here are some of my favorites in this category:

Cooking & Baking:  This category sometimes overlaps with the "Cake" category, but I try to stick blogs in here that do more with making meals and other dessert type items (not cakes).  I get a lot of inspiration for making meals from these blogs!  Here are some of my top blogs in this category:

Deals:  I will definitely have posts in the future on this topic, but I must say that I.heart.Dave.Ramsey!  We have been on the Dave Ramsey plan for about 3 years now and it has helped us out so much!  Some of the blogs that I follow have been key in helping to cut the food and grocery shopping area of our budget!

House & Organizing:  This is another one of my big categories, with 23 different blogs that I follow!  After cake decorating, my second favorite "free time" activity of choice is small home improvement projects, crafts and looking at pretty house pictures.

So, that's a list of my favorites.  Do you have any favorite blogs that you would like to share?  I'm always looking for new ideas!


Summer Fun

>> Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm pretty convinced I am the awesomest of all people. Awesomest, is that a word? I know you're skeptical. "pfft. What makes her think she's so awesome". I can hear you thinking it. Well. let me tell you.

This morning, I stood outside and talked to the man from the landscaping company who was here to spray our lawn for about 10-15 minutes. As he walked away, I realized my zipper was wide open. In a there's-no-way-he-didn't-notice way. Pretty awesome right? Not enough?

Last week we went to meet with our architect to finalize some house plans. As I backed out of his driveway I killed a large percentage of his plants and flowers with my tires. As he watched. Still not enough?

What about my ability to make an idiot out of myself in all awkward situations because I can't keep my mouth shut? Silence makes me nervous and I find myself saying really dumb things. Like in college when I, the pre-vet major who grew up on a farm, was suprised to see a neighbor's boyfriend with his dog in our shared yard. I made the most brilliant comment of all time. "Nice dog. He has really big ears. I bet he can hear really well." You have to admit, that one is pretty awesome.

I have so many more, but I'll save those. I have to save some shred of dignity.

Seriously though, I try to be a fun mom and here are a couple of ideas for summer fun we've incorporated recently. First, my 3 year old is obsessed with car washes. He is constantly begging us to drive by them and through them. He talks about them all the time and has all the car washes in a 15 mile radius scoped out. So I asked my husband to make him a mini car wash with some PVC pipe. My idea was to get some pipe, drill holes in it, put the garden hose in one end somehow, and hang it up. As always, his idea was better than mine and this is what he built. The kids both love it.

Second, I made some watermelon popsicles this week that the kids loved. I thought they were good, but of course I couldn't make them look as pretty as they did in the picture I originally saw. I am a good cook, but I can't make food look pretty. I would decrease or eliminate the sugar in the jello next time though. Jello is sweet enough; I don't think it needs more sugar.

Click here for watermelon pops recipe from Kraft Foods.


Big Belly

>> Sunday, June 19, 2011

So, I'm 8 months pregnant now and my belly is quite large.  The other day, Tyler came up to me with a ball under his shirt and told me that he had a "baby sister in his belly."

Then, the next day he asked me if he could have some candy and I told him no because "you'll get fat."  I then had to explain to him what fat meant because he didn't know what that means.  I told him it meant he would have a big belly.  His response?  "A big belly like Mommy?  I don't want to be fat."



I discovered a couple of months ago, and I really love it! Basically, it is a visual pinboard. You create "boards" of your choosing and then clip images onto those boards. The images come from (things other users have imported) or from any website or blog you are looking at. You install a little "pin this" button in your toolbar, and you can clip any picture to your pinterest boards. My boards are food/recipes, style, home decor, inspirational quotes, gym and fitness motivation, entertaining, organization, things I'd like to make, clothes I love, and gift ideas. I've "pinned" everything from hair styles I like to outfits to funny sayings to diy projects. And I have gotten several great recipes from the site as well. When you click on a photo, it will take you to that original blog or website, which is a great way to discover new blogs and websites. Some people say it is a huge timesuck, and I can see that it could be. I pretty much check the pinterest site itself once every 2-3 days. It's great for so many purposes and if you are really visual like me you'll love it. Below are some miscellaneous things I've pinned. And a quick tip, I was unable to install the Pin It button in internet explorer, so I used firefox as my browser instead and have had no problems with it.

Valentine's Idea:

Organization Center:
How to make a flower pin tutorial:
Cute outfit idea:
Cupcake Cones:
Healthy Eating Idea:
Beautiful Bedroom:
Peanut Butter Cup Trifle:
If you want to try pinterest, you have to ask for an invitation (you should see the button on the website) and it will take at least a couple of days. I think I also have invitations I can give away if anyone wants one.


Father's Day Card

>> Saturday, June 18, 2011

Looking for a cute Father's Day card this year?  I found a free download on a blog and thought I would share.  This is what the "fathers" in my life are getting this year :)

You can download the printable version on Paper & Pigtails blog here:


3 Year Old Logic

Tyler loves to play games.  He's competitive and very good at sports.  In order to keep him engaged in the car, we usually play some word or visual games.  Ryan likes to join in as well, but at this point he just copies his brother :)

One of Tyler's favorite things to do in the car is for us to play "Mommy & Daddy".  Here's how it went the other day:

Me:  "Tyler, do you love Mommy or Daddy?"

Tyler:  "Mommy"

Me:  "Awe, thanks Tyler!"

Tyler:  "No, I love Daddy!"

Me:  "No way!"

Tyler:  "Yes, Daddy!!"

Me:  "But Mommy Loves you, too!"

Tyler:  "But Daddy loves me SO much!"

Me:  "Yes, but Mommy also loves you SO much!"

Tyler:  "No, I love Daddy.  Ryan loves you.  Baby sister loves Abby (our puppy)"

Apparently everyone can only love one person in this world.  Oh, and since my husband always refers to Ryan (my 2 year old) as "mommy's boy", Tyler thinks that I must love him more.  Geesh, this can only go down hill from here!

But then it continued:

Tyler: "When I was little, like bro-bro (aka, my 2 year old), I loved Mommy.  But now, I'm a big boy and I love daddy."

So, apparently, babies love their mommies but big boys love their daddies. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he loves his daddy and knows that his daddy loves him, but how about showing some love for the momma who gave birth to him?!  As my grandmother always used to say, "I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it!" :)


Peach-Glazed Meatballs

>> Friday, June 17, 2011

Another recipe from Taste of Home Almost Homemade. Excuse the kiddie plate!

Peach-Glazed Meatballs

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1/2 onion, diced

1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules

1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef (I always use at least ground chuck or ground round)

1 jar (16 oz) peach preserves

1 bottle (12 oz) chili sauce

1 envelope dry onion soup mix

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, bread crumbs, bouillon and onion. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls. In a large skillet, cook in batches until no longer pink. Drain and return to skillet.

In a small saucepan, combine the preserves, chili sauce, and soup mix. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Pour over meatballs. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 min or until heated through.


Easy, No-Rise Cinnamon Rolls

>> Thursday, June 16, 2011

I follow a lot of different blogs.  Some are cake decorating ones, some are blogs that feature coupons and good deals, some are about household projects and organizing, some are written by personal friends with updates about their family and some are cooking and menu planning.  

Several years ago, I saw a recipe on one such blog and tried it.  I fell in love.  Not only is it easy, but it's somewhat healthy (at least compared to most other recipes).  It's No Rise Cinnamon Rolls, which I found on the blog,  Yum-o!

We probably make these about once a month (maybe a little more when I'm pregnant :) and the boys love to help me prepare them...and most of all, eat them!  We made them this morning, and I documented what we did and the boys helping me.

Below is my (slightly) modified version of what she has on her website.

Easy, No-Rise Cinnamon Rolls

·                                 2 cups whole wheat flour (I buy mine bulk from an Amish store, but you can find it in the flour section of your local grocery store)
·                                 3 teaspoons baking powder
·                                 1/2 teaspoon salt
·                                 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
·                                 1/2 stick butter, melted
·                                 3/4 cup milk

To make the dough mix together the dry ingredients.  Add melted butter and milk.  Stir to combine.  Dough should be a little sticky, but able to roll out.  Put on a floured surface and roll out.

·                                 Butter (I use the tub butter because it is perfect spreading consistency)
·                                 Brown Sugar
·                                 Cinnamon

Spread filling on the on the rolled out dough. Butter first, then sugar, then cinnamon. Use as much or as little as you want.
Roll up and slice into rolls. I cut the roll in half, and then keep "halving" each section until I have around 12-16 rolls.  Place evenly in a 9x13 baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

·                                 3 Tablespoons butter  (softened)
·                                 3 cups powdered sugar
·                                 3 Tablespoons cream cheese (softened)
·                                 1 teaspoon vanilla
·                                 Milk

Mix together butter and cream cheese. Then add powdered sugar and vanilla. Add milk until you get a consistency that can be drizzled on the cinnamon rolls. When the rolls are finished, you can either drizzle icing on all of them, or drizzle as you serve them (this is what we do!).   This makes a lot of icing; unless you use TONS, you will have enough for at least 2 batches of rolls.  Extra icing will keep in the fridge for at least a month.

Getting ready to start!

Dough Ingredients

Dough dry ingredients

Mommy's helper

Notice Ryan is not helping to roll...he is trying to eat as much dough as possible.

Filling Ingredients (except I use tub butter because I always forget to set the butter out to soften)

Butter spread on rolled out dough

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon added to dough and butter

Rolling up into cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon rolls are cut and ready to put into the pan

Mom, can't we eat them now?!

Icing Ingredients - I use PURE Mexican Vanilla...this is one thing I don't skimp on!

Waiting patiently...only 15 minutes but it seems like FOREVER to a 2 year old!
Yum!  Who needs a plate?

I can't wait for another photo, MOM!


Mom, don't make me wait to start eating!


Good Reads, Part I

>> Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm an avid reader, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite fiction books. You can see full reviews on Amazon, and that's not really my strength anyway so I won't bore you with lots of words! I am not a big fan of fluffy, beach type novels. If I spend time reading a book, I really want it to make me feel something, even if it's sadness. (I know how weird I am, my kids tell me every day.) So while none of these books are necessarily hard to read, they're not light little summer books either.

The Red Tent

I really love this book. Probably my all-time favorite fiction book. I think it's just a great story about relationships between women.

The Book Thief
I've heard people describe this book as life-changing. It's really good.

Time Traveler's Wife
I hate science fiction, and although this is not science fiction time travel is obviously central to the story line. I thought it was hard to really follow all the time travel at first, and most of the people who don't like this book cite that as the reason. I thought it was a little graphic for my taste in parts, but overall I liked this book and I loved the movie.

Water for Elephants
Really easy to read. Loved this one. Have yet to see the movie. I love Reese, but I'm not that excited about Robert Twilight-whats-his-name playing the main character.

Cutting for Stone

The central character in this book is a surgeon and there is alot of talk about surgeries. Of course, I loved that and I loved the characters also.

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Same author as The Kite Runner, also a great book. One of my friends says this book made her realize how lucky we are, as women, to live in the United States.

Sarah's Key
I thought this one was really moving. Not a happy little story though.

The Art of Racing in the Rain
A must for any dog lover! Really sweet story. (of course, the ending is sad but sad-happy if that makes any sense)

The Hunger Games
I downloaded this one to Kindle because I'd heard alot about it and it was on sale for $5. Had I known what it was about I probably wouldn't have read it. Once I figured it out I was already hooked though, and had to see what happened. (Basically, in a futuristic setting children are drawn in a lottery-like system and they fight against one another in a huge arena for sport until only one survivor is left). I hate science fiction, and I really hated the idea of this book but I couldn't put it down. I read the whole trilogy in less than 2 weeks.

And now I think I will make an appointment for some therapy because sadness seems to be a recurring theme in my list of favorite books, and I'm not sure what that says about me -- an otherwise very happy person.

If you have any book recommendations I'd love to hear them.