Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sweet & Sour Salad

Sweet & Sour Pasta Salad
I had a request for this recipe today, so I thought I would share it with everyone vs just one :) 

This recipe comes straight from my mom's cookbook!  It is one of my favorite salad recipes! 

It's a perfect salad for your a spring/summer cookout or potluck!  But I also like to serve it at a bridal/baby shower because it's so pretty & colorful and yields about 16 servings+. 

The best keeps well for a couple of days :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Helpful Kitchen Hints (including 3 surprises)

I'm always happy to learn about a shortcut or tip that stretches our family's dollars further or simply makes life less complicated.  For example:  laying out your clothes the night before, rotating toys, having a menu plan, today I'm sharing kitchen, food, & eating tips that just might make your life simpler.

I created a printable shopping list (organized by category) that we keep on the fridge at all times.  As we run out of items we immediately add that product to our list so we can always depend on a well stocked pantry.  Feel free to share and make copies of it for your own personal use! 

Gracie & Josiah

Kid Kitchen Tips
  • Cut food into kid sized bites using a pizza cutter .  These are just a few things we cut with a pizza cutter:  spaghetti, pancakes, hot dogs, chicken nuggets/strips, quesadillas, bologna, and cheese slices.  We learned this trick from my brother Rick :) 

  • School Lunch idea-- Josiah doesn't care much for cold sandwiches when he takes his own lunch.  Therefore, I sometimes send milk, cereal and fruit for lunch.  I send his soy milk in a spill-free bottle and put cereal in a Tupperware bowl.  But, for those with kids not requiring soy milk,  your kids could just use their lunch milk to pour into their dry cereal. 
Saving time & money makes every one happier!

    Money & Time Saving Tips
    • Buy fresh herbs in a squeeze tube.  My favorite brand is Gourmet Garden.  You'll find these in the produce's refrigerated section at a major grocery store.  Time to time you need fresh herbs (like basil, ginger, Italian seasonings, etc...), however you only use a couple of stems and the rest ends up spoiling.  Not anymore....just buy a $5 tube of herbs and it will last for several months!  Plus, you don't have to spend precious time washing and finely chopping the fresh herbs either.   

    • Whipped Cream in a Can.  I love a yummy, frothy Starbucks latte but they are spendy!  So from time to time I splurge on a can to add the creamy yumminess to my morning coffees or hot chocolate to treat my craving more economically.  It's also fun to add a dollop of whip cream to your pancakes, waffles or ice cream sundaes. 

      Food Saving Tips/Stretches with 2 New Recipes

      • Use leftover grilled chicken or steak to make quesadillas.  
      • I use leftover rice to make family fried rice.  (Find recipe here).
      • Leftover mashed potatoes makes the following hamburger pie recipe super quick to whip up. 

      Thursday, April 12, 2012

      Easter Fun & Forts

      Logan, Josiah & Kendall
      I had an awesome Easter Break with these 3 dudes!  I cleared everything off my schedule on Friday and Monday to just be Mom and Aunt Becky! 

      On Thursday, I made up a game called Prize Egg/Rotten Egg!  I filled a basket of plastic eggs (with little notes tucked inside indicating a prize or "to do" activity or rotten egg) and the boys took turn drawing eggs from the basket all day.  If we chose a rotten egg they had to occupy themselves until we could choose another egg 15 minutes later!  It proved to be a fun game and broke up the monotony of the day.  I used about 15 eggs--- 5 of them were rotten eggs and the others included prizes/activities such as:  going out for ice cream, dying Easter eggs, play water bottle bowling, going to the park for 35 minutes and playing board games for 30 minutes, etc... 

      Prize Egg/Rotten Egg would a perfect activity to use during a play date any time of the year.  Plus, it takes minimal preparation.  Just make sure you are prepared to follow through on the activities that might be chosen!

      Logan, Josiah and Rob

      We tried three different ways to dye Easter eggs this year!    (Note:  I was lucky this " prize egg" was chosen when Rob was home on Friday afternoon :) 
      • Koolaid Egg Dying--- :( thumbs down
      • Egg Dying with Food Coloring --- :)  thumbs up!
      • Volcano Egg Painting--- :)  thumbs up!
      Koolaid Egg Dying was sure the easiest to prepare but yielded the most disappointing results.  All you do is a take one package of Koolaid and dissolve it in 2/3 cups of warm water.  We never could get the Koolaid completely dissolved so the eggs were speckled because of the undissolved powder.  Upon immediate removal, the eggs were bright but they definitely lost their color by the time we hunted them on Sunday afternoon. 

      Josiah showing an egg dyed with food coloring!

      My favorite way to dye eggs is with food coloring!  This method always yields the best results in the quickest amount of time!  Dissolve 15 drops of food coloring (or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) in 2/3 cup of hot water and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. 

      I like to buy my food coloring at Hobby Lobby in the cake decorating section for $1.18/bottle, whether I'm making frosting or dying eggs.  But, McCormick's 4 pack dye box yields great results too!  Use this guide to help you make lots of different colors with a basic 4 pack dye!  However, for egg dying I usually double or triple the amounts to yield bright, bold eggs! 

      Logan painting one of his volcano dyed eggs!

      Rob and Josiah "erupting" the color on a volcano dyed egg!

      Josiah and Logan's favorite formula is Volcano Egg Dying/Painting!  I originally found the idea on Pinterest and found the best how-to directions at "Toddler Approved" blog.  You basically paint your eggs with a baking soda paste (dye added) and pour white vinegar over the eggs to make colorful designs.  You can repeat as many times as desired!  This is also the best way give eggs that marbled effect :) 

      All done!
      (Yes, Josiah is that much bigger than Logie)

      Of course on Easter Sunday-- we celebrated Christ's Resurrection at church!  And I had the incredible opportunity to present the salvation message during Kids Church and had 2 children accept Christ for the first time!  This wasn't a first for me...but it had been a long time since I led 2 kids to Christ!  What an adrenaline rush on Easter Sunday of all days! 

      Eugene popping out of the box during Revolutionary Kids on Easter Sunday!
      April's set theme is "Puzzled"

      We hosted a small portion of my side of the family for lunch and the boys enjoyed their Easter Egg hunt and Josiah's scavenger hunt to find his basket :) 

      On Monday, I had the boys to myself again! In the morning we attempted to fly the kites they each received in their Easter baskets but there wasn't a good enough wind to keep the kites up over a long period of time.  (Shocker!--given SD's wind---) It was windy but too gusty!

      So, in the afternoon--- we built 2 PVC pipe forts!  Another idea I found on Pinterest!  You can find the perfect directions for creating one at Angry Julie Monday's blog.  One of them costs approximately $35 to put together and they are ENORMOUS!!! It is basically a small playhouse vs. a fort!

      Logan & Josiah helping gather the supplies at Lowe's! 
      However, I'm happy to report we had to venture to Ace Hardware as well for a better selection of pipe fittings :) 

      I hoped that Lowe's would cut all the pipe sections for me, however, when this girl came out carrying a little hand saw...I decided I would just take them home and DO IT MYSELF!!!  Yes, I broke out the miter box saw and did it all by myself!!! GIRL POWER!!! After I got all the pipes cut, it really was quite simple to assemble! 

      A picture of the structure/frame!  (Note:  Logan was a pirate all day!)

      Logan, Josiah and I
      Of course, kids always want to pose for one "goofy" picture!