Sunday, September 29, 2013

Party Dips

I've got a quick little tip today for you.  Next time you have a party or girls night and want to do a chips and dip platter, don't automatically reach for the premade dips.  Try a new approach and make it healthier. Most dips are sour cream and seasoning.  I have realized that plain greek yogurt tastes very similar to sour cream, yet its packed with protein.  And most people don't even realize that it is greek yogurt when they are eating the dip.  When my girlfriends and I have girls nights in, they usually leave me in charge of the dips.  I ususally use Tastefully simple seasonings, Garlic garlic, dill, fiesta, etc, and greek yogurt.  Then I make sure that I have healthier chips with me, or pretzels.  I love the honey wheat braids from Rold Gold, or I use RW Garcia brand or Food Should Taste Good brand chips made with flax seed or sweet potato, or quinoa.  They also are packed with protein and taste good.  So instead of mindlessly dipping into something with little to no nutritional value, these chips and dips are full of healthy grains, low fat and high protein. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ice cream sandwich cake

What's this? Only the easiest cake I've ever made.  And what's hiding underneath that white top layer?  Yummy frozen deliciousness.  It's an ice cream cake and I made it in a time crunch last week when my kids announced last minute that we needed to make their "Mimi" a birthday cake.  This was of course on the busiest day of the week when I had errands, and work, and a parent teacher meeting.  It's Murphy's Law, the kids never spring something on you when its a quiet day.  But when they announced they needed a cake, I didnt panic.  I grabbed two ingredients at the grocery store and I was all set.  To make this cake, it only takes about 5-10 minutes, then it needs to set for a few hours.  I was able to make it in between errands and work, and then let it set between work and dessert time. 

You will need:
Ice cream sandwiches (usually a box of 12 works in a square glass pan.  I get 24 because I have backups for a spill, a drop, user error, or a bigger glass pan.)  You can use any brand, any flavor.  We used a box of chocolate and a box of mint chocolate chip, store brand, for this cake, because that's what my 5 year old wanted.

1 container of Cool Whip, light or regular.  I get the big container. You can use flavored, too, or add cocoa to it to flavor it up. 

You can also use candy toppings..... crushed peanut butter cups, jimmies, M&Ms, chocolate chips, caramel sauce, crushed oreos, etc) but for this one, we just did it "original style" without any fancy toppings. 

Take the frozen ice cream sandwiches and line them up in the pan.  You might have some leftover room that wont fit a whole ice cream sandwich.  Take a sharp knife and cut a sandwich or two into pieces that will fit.  You'll want the whole pan covered with ice cream sandwiches.

Ours were a little melted so this is the result, but it all tasted good in the end.
Now cover these ice cream sandiwches with a layer of cool whip.  You don't want it too thick, but make sure they are all covered.  The next layer can be your candy toppings, cookies, whatever, or you can skip this part.  Like I said before, ours was plain, and it still tasted yummy. 
Now take more unwrapped ice cream sandwiches and lay them on top of the cool whip, side by side, to fill the entire pan.  Cut some sandwiches to fill the odd shaped sides or any gaps there may be.  Then cover this layer with Cool Whip.  A thicker layer than before is fine, because this is your "frosting".  Put the cake in the freezer for atleast a few hours to freeze and set. 
When you are ready to serve the cake, you can then add toppings, write a message with frosting or a gel, add candles, toy decorations, etc.  The cake should be frozen enough that the ice cream wont be oozing out if you put any pressure on the top layer.  Now cut with a cake slicer or knife and enjoy! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Peppa Pig Birthday Party on a budget!

My daughter LOVES Peppa Pig.  If you haven't seen Peppa, check out Nick jr in the afternoons.  She's there with Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig, and her little brother George.  Peppa is a little british pig who has a huge imagination and is a lot of fun. My daughter fell in love with Peppa when she was 3 and the fascination hasn't stopped yet.  So when she was turning 5, she asked for a Peppa party.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Peppa items in stores (recently Toys R us has started selling Peppa toys, but we still cannot find party items anywhere), and the items I found online were super expensive.  So I got a little crafty and imaginative..... on a budget.  

Our first plan of action was to figure out where were going to have this party.  The local play zones, movie theaters, bowling/arcade center, etc were running about $250-$300 atleast for the party, and that didn't include the cake.  Some included the paper goods, but no one had a Peppa Pig themed party.  Plus, I really couldnt swing that PLUS a pig cake.  So I had a chat with my girl, who decided that an at home party could be just as fun.  (And Mommy's wallet was much happier with this decision!)

Then we started to look for pig paper goods.  Since Peppa wasn't an option, I was open to any pig items.  I did find a few Olivia things, but my daughter didn't want Olivia.  I couldn't find any other pig paper items, plates, bowls, napkins, etc, so I took a trip to my local dollar store.  I got plain pink everything.  The table cloth, bowls, spoons, etc were all plain pink.  The total was $7 and change. 

For decorations, I went very basic.  I bought one enormous mylar pig balloon at a party store (that went along with their "farm" party supplies) and hung it up.  I have a small fear of other balloons, so I saved myself a lot of aggravation and skipped the helium tank and latex balloons.  The total was $7 and change.

We always do an activity during my kids parties.  My daughter has a winter birthday, so playing outdoors usually is not an option.  So I bought a dozen ceramic piggie banks at Oriental Trading and set them up for the kids to paint.  I put their names on the bottom and let them paint with acrylics and glitter paint.  This kept the kiddos busy for over 30 minutes, and they all got to go home with a new bank. The total was $19 and change. 

For food, we went a real easy route.  I ordered 4 pizzas, bought 2 different types of ice cream, and had a pizza party and ice cream social. And we had all the cheesy pizza, ice cream, pink sprinkles and ice cream toppings that a 5 year old girl and her friends could ever want!!!  With coupons and sales, the total for all food included was $32 and change. 

I priced cakes.  Man, what an expensive item!!!!  I really couldn't swing the huge pricetag for a pig shaped cake.  Plus, my daughter suggested we order cupcakes instead of a cake..... the price locally is $3-$7 per cupcake!  I had 10 kids to feed, plus grownups.  So we compromised.  I could provide cupcakes for her party... if she allowed me to make them. Then I made pig cupcakes.  My daughter picked pink cake, pink frosting but I wanted to make it more themed for Peppa Pig.  For valentines day, I found large pink swirl marshmallows.  I added one to the top of each cupcake to make it a pig's snout.  I used black frosting gel to make the two dots.  The photo in the middle has Peppa and her parents on it.  The cake and frostings, $2 (bought on sale and with coupons.) The marshmallows another $2.
Now each year on my kids' birthdays, I try to get them an outfit to go with their party theme.  This year it was nearly impossible.  The only places I could find Peppa Pig outfits were either Ebay, or british clothing and toy stores.  Either way, I was going to have to spend a fortune.  So I got a bit creative.  I'm not very crafty, but I can make my kids pretty happy with what I've got.  I went to Michael's and bought a plain pink tee for my girl.  Then I came home and with a pencil and some fabric paint, I made her her very own Peppa Pig t-shirt. 
It is hard to see in this photo, but Peppa is bright pink, wearing a red dress, and holding a balloon that has the number 5 inside.  I even drew Peppa's shoes, which you can't see.  The shirt was a hit.  The total.... $2 for the shirt, and I already had the paints. 
The pinata was bought on clearance for $6.99.  It was a plain purple flower but it had a "Happy 1st birthday" picture in the middle.  I took a Peppa Pig picture that I found online, printed it out and glued it onto the center of the pinata. I had candy that I had bought with coupons inside.  Total.....  $9 and change.
For the goody bags, I bought plain colored bags at the dollar store above and stuffed it with leftover princess stuff, plus pig pencil toppers, pig activity sheets, a 3 little pigs book, a pig stuffed animal for each child (bought at the dollar store!).  The total was $ 17. 
For $98, I had a Peppa Pig party that kept 10 children happy for 2 hours.  They all had full bellies, a lot of fun, and went home with a piggie bank and a bag full of candy and piggie activities and toys.  It was a price I could afford, and everyone had a good time. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A quick recipe post

Last night I made a pretty interesting meal while in a huge rush.  It was a clean out the kitchen night.  I didn't take photos, I didn't even think anyone would like it.  However, it turned into one of my most amazing meals yet!  We had some leftover boneless pork that was on sale a few weeks ago.  And we had lots of cheese.  So I got the idea to stuff the pork with cheese.  But thats not all.  Here is how it went. 

4 pieces of boneless pork
assorted spices (I used dried pesto seasoning, garlic, seasoned salt and a little black pepper.)
Cheese (whatever you have works.  I actually used velveeta and it came out gooey and yummy)
bread crumbs or assorted potato chips/tortilla chips/croutons.  No lie.  This is what happens on clean out the kitchen night!  I had no bread crumbs at all, so I improvised.  I used gluten free Flax tortilla chips made by the RW Garcia company. I added garlic powder to the mix. 

Preheat the oven to 375* and line a baking sheet with tin foil. 

I pounded out the pork real thin. I then sprinkled on pinches of each seasoning.  I then cut the velveeta into 1/4" slices and then cut that lengthwise into 4 pieces.  I put a piece of cheese on the pork and started rolling, adding another piece of cheese every so often.  Each pork roll had 4 small, long pieces of cheese inside.  I then took the leftover tortilla chips that we had and crushed them in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin until they were a little bigger than bread crumb texture. I then rolled each pork roll in the crumb topping and put them on the baking sheet.  I baked them for about 25 min until the pork was cooked completely, the chips were golden brown and the cheeze was bubbling out the sides. 

It was extremely easy to make this dinner.  I ended up re-heating some leftover pasta and adding broccoli on the side.  So delicious.  Since it was gluten free chips that I used, my gluten free fans now know a new way to "bread" chicken, fish and pork!  It tasted really good, and I will definitely be using this tip again and I will absolutely be making this recipe again.  Enjoy!

The Cow goes Moo, the Duck goes Quack.....

....the fish goes Blub.  Well, obviously.  But what does the Fox say??? 

Welcome to my family's new favorite morning tune.  Your family will be singing it, too!  It gets us moving.  And it's too darn cute to hear my 17 month old trying to tell me what the fox says.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coffee Coupon alert!

For those of you who love coffee, like me, and also love a bargain.... I have a deal for you! 

Starbucks is offering a $1 coupon for their iced bottled coffee sold in grocery stores.  They are usually in the coolers near the register.  Yum!  And if you have a Target or Walmart nearby, you can get one bottle for just about 50 cents.  What a deal!  Use this link to find your coupon.  Print it out and head to your local store.  Enjoy!  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

This song will be stuck in your head forever.

I will say both "thank you" and "I'm sorry" now.  This WILL get stuck in your head!  There is a naughty word in this video, so share this with your kids only AFTER you have viewed it for the first time and realize when its necessary to turn it off in front of them.  This is such a funny song and video and my kids and I sing it all the time.  We even make up new words for it.  "I'm cooking dinner, I'm cooking dinner now!"  "I've got my pink dress, I've got my pink dress on!" Enjoy!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Huey Lewis and...... ME!

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet Huey Lewis.  Yes, I said MEET HUEY LEWIS.  I saw him in concert for the second time on August 30th and this time I got the amazing opportunity to meet him.  It was entirely a fluke, even though I did go to the show with high hopes that I would meet him.  It's quite a story and parts are a little bit unbelievable.  But here we go......

A little over 10 years ago, I saw Huey Lewis and the News in concert on Cape Cod, MA.  It was a pretty cool show.  They played a lot of their hits, and had everyone on their feet.  I had back row tickets..... seriously, the LAST row.  But I didn't care.  I stood on the back of my chair the whole time, dancing and praying that I wouldn't fall off and land on the person in front of me.  I was a huge fan of Huey Lewis and The News.  I had grown up with them, owned their albums, cassettes and CDs (remember albums?  Those round shiny black things that scratched so easily and you had to flip them over to hear side B? lol, Im hoping some of you remember them!  Heck, some of you may not even remember cassettes!!!)  I was such a huge fan that a month or so before the concert, as my then Fiancee and I were addressing our wedding invites, we addressed one to Huey Lewis.  We guessed he wouldn't make it to our wedding, but I wrote a letter to him telling him that I was a big fan, getting ready to see him on the Cape that August, and that I would be honored if he came to our wedding as a guest.  I signed the letter, sealed it in the invite envelope and mailed it off, knowing that I would never see him at our wedding, but knowing that since I invited him, it would make a great story.  Well guess what......  one day I discovered that Huey Lewis could not make it.  How did I discover this?  Because someone had returned the response card to us.  It simply said "Mr. Huey Lewis" and the number 0 where the guests were supposed to write in how many people would be attending.  The card had no note, no other information, and I'm assuming, but not positive, that it wasn't him, but someone on his staff that had filled out and returned the card.  It didn't matter much because HOW COOL WAS IT TO HAVE THIS CARD RETURNED FROM HUEY LEWIS????  I quickly stashed the card away in my wedding scrapbook and had an even better story to tell friends and family.  Not only did I invite Huey Lewis to my wedding, but he returned the response card to us!!!!!  Even without Huey's presence, we had a fabulous wedding.  His music was played that night and our guests danced the night away.  (Our going away song was "Cruising"!)

So now we're going to fast forward 10 years.  This past May my Husband found out Huey Lewis and The News would be playing on Cape Cod about 10 years after I had seen them the first time, and about a month and a half before our 10 year wedding anniversary.  He bought us tickets to go to the Huey show for my birthday gift.  The weeks leading up to the show, I was imagining how cool it would be to meet Huey and show him that wedding response card that was sent to me 10 years before.  I made the decision to bring the card with us to the show, with hopes that somehow I could get Huey to sign it.  Of course I knew that the chance of meeting him was probably slim to none, but I would have the card with me..... just in case.  So August 30 I get a cute outfit on, do my hair and makeup (this is all a very rare occurance for this stay at home Mom of three!) and get ready to go see Huey.  I had my daughter's pink princess pen with me so I could get Huey's signature.  Hubby and I head on up there, sit in the 7th row and I danced my little heart away the whole night.  The show was great.  They played the whole SPORTS album and then played a bunch of other favorites.  The band sounded amazing, Huey was great, I had a blast.  (Don't mind the date on the photos.  I took them with our back-up camera and apparently I never put the correct date on it!)

Before Huey and the rest of the band headed off stage before their encore, my Husband ran up with the response card in hand, to see if he could stand near the dressing room entrance.  He was hoping he could catch Huey, tell him our story, and get a signature on the card.  He stood up there for a while, missing the last song before the encore and then he missed seeing the encore (he could hear everything, though.) About a song and a half into the encore, I ran out to find Hubby and stood with him by the gated entrance to the dressing room.  Soon enough, Huey Lewis and the News ran right by us.  I was a crazy nutcase yelling "HUEY SIGN MY CARD" but he ran by quickly and I don't think he even heard me, even though I was less than a few feet away. 

Bummed that we missed a signature opportunity, but happy that I saw the show, I was ready to go.  The VIP line was starting, security was putting up ropes and gates and they were trying to usher us out.  BUT.... Hubby had an idea and soon I saw him pass my treasured card and my daughters pink pen to a complete stranger that was standing in the VIP line to head back to the dressing room area.  WHAT?!?!?!  My heart sank.  I was excited and yet mad at the same time.  What if the stranger lost my card?  What if we got kicked out of the area and never saw this man again?  My card would be gone, forever, and I'd rather have it unsigned than have it lost. The man seemed nice enough and asked me about the signifigance of the card, so I quickly told him about the invite 10 years ago and receiving the card back in the mail with Huey's name on it.  Then he walked back into the VIP line with my card. I told Hubby to give the man my cell phone number so if we had to leave the area, he could call or text us and we could grab the card (signed or unsigned, at this point I just wanted it back) afterwards. Before I could give this man my phone number, the dressing room area door opened and he disappeared with my card.  My heart sank, my stomach was in knots and I couldn't stay calm. Until...... two minutes later the door opened and the man walked out with my daughter's pink princess pen and my response card.  WITH A SIGNATURE ON IT!!!!  I wanted to kiss this man! I gave him a quick thank you before he headed back to the VIP rooms. 

On cloud nine, Hubby and I walked back to the parking lot area.  I was texting friends "HE SIGNED THE CARD" and taking pictures of it with my cell phone when I saw Hubby bend over in the parking lot.  When he stood up he had a VIP PASS IN HIS HAND!!!  What?!?!  Yes, you saw that correctly.  Someone had dropped a VIP pass for the Huey Lewis and the News show in the parking lot.  Hubby grabbed it, passed it to me and I made the mad dash to the VIP section. I can't even tell you what was running through my mind in those moments, I was so excited.  But right before I got to the dressing room area, the general manager of the concert area stopped me.  I knew I couldn't tell him where I got the pass, so I did my best (while trying not to cry, figuring I was about to get kicked out of the place.... so close but soooo far away) to explain to him that I had a VIP pass and I was just trying to find Huey.  Luckily, the General Manager decided he would try to get me back there and escorted me to the dressing room area, through a kitchen, to a back door and to a back porch area where..... and here is where you cue the angels singing...... Huey was standing. 

There were about 8 other people outside there, and Huey was chatting up with a few of them.  Others were sort of standing around.  As soon as I heard a break in conversation, I walked up to him, put my hand out to greet him and said "Hi, my name is Heather.  I invited you to my wedding 10 years ago."  He responded "I know, I signed your card!"  Yes, yes he did, and I was so happy that the man in the VIP line had told him the story of the invite and the response card when he asked Huey to sign it!!!!  I told him yes, that was my card and I thanked him for signing it.  The funniest part was as I was thanking him, he was looking around the porch area, noticing that I was alone, and then looked at me and said in a very sarcastically funny voice "Well, are you still married??!"  I laughed and told him yes, 10 years in about a month and a half.  I didnt even think to tell him that I only had one VIP pass and that Hubby was waiting for me outside with security. lol So after a few minutes of talking, Huey was ready to go back inside.  I opened the door for him, walked into the kitchen area where we discussed "lobstahs and Stahbucks" in our best BAHSTON accents and we said our goodbyes and he walked away.  BUT......  I was able to ask him to pose for a picture with me, and so I present this fabulous selfie of Huey Lewis and I!!!! 

Huey Lewis and The News.....  I cannot thank you enough for coming to our little neck of the woods and playing for us time and time again and Mr. Lewis, thank you for signing my wedding response card.  10 years ago I had a good story about inviting you to our wedding.  10 years and a month and a half later, I had an even better story about inviting you AND getting a response card back, and now today I have an AMAZING story about inviting you to our wedding, getting a response card back with your name on it and then getting it signed by you!  Plus, I have a fantastic picture of you and I that I will treasure always!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  And I will see you again next time you play on CAPE COD!!! 

Blogger Idol 2013

I am so new to this whole blogger thing.  4 months ago today I decided to start sharing my little tips, recipes, ideas.  And surprisingly, I've gotten a little following!  Im getting emails and comments about me inspiring people to start taking charge of their lives, their wallets, their weight, their sedentary lifestyle.  WOW is all I can say.  I never imagined I'd be an inspiration but I am so honored!!! 

A friend recently tagged me in a facebook post about Blogger Idol.  It is a competition for bloggers to get their voices heard.  Any blogger, new or seasoned, can audition.  The top 12 are picked right off the bat and they compete each week.  This will be interesting because 1.  Im a brand new blogger, 2. I sometimes don't have much to say, and when I do, do people really find me interesting enough to read me time and time again?  and 3. Im sure I'll be competing against some pretty amazing bloggers that I look up to!  But here it goes..... I have auditioned.  And I need YOUR help! 

 Please go like the Official Blogger Idol page and let them know you want ME to make it to the top 12!!  I would LOVE the chance to get my little voice heard and to show you all (and myself) that I can do it!!  Im always the positive voice telling YOU all that YOU can do it over on the Monkeys and Moustaches facebook page (!/MonkeysAndMoustaches ) But now is my chance to start chanting "I CAN DO IT!!!"   Do you think I can do it?  Go tell the awesome folks over at Blogger Idol that you think I can do it, too!  Please follow me on this new journey and as always THANK YOU for your support!!! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Add a little pumpkin to your life

Fall is right around the corner!  And you know what that means...... Pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING!  Donuts, coffee, pop tarts, and all the other yummy treats I love.  So in honor of fall, I made a pumpkin chocolate cake the other day.  So easy! 

1 box of chocolate cake mix (Although you can use pretty much any kind.  Yellow, white, butter, etc. I bet a spice cake mix would be amazing!)
1 can of canned pumpkin
1/4-1/2 cup of milk

Preheat the oven according to the cake box instructions.  (Usually 350*-375* depending on the brand and flavor you use.) Spray a cake pan with non stick spray.  Pour the cake mix in a large bowl.  Add the canned pumpkin.  Mix thoroughly.  Start slowly adding the milk so the batter isnt so thick.  I was able to get it to a cake batter consistency using just over 1/4 cup.  Then pour into the cake pan and spread evenly.  Bake, cool, enjoy. 

Moist and delicious, filled with fiber and low in fat.  I was impressed by this recipe.  Because I was just testing this canned pumpkin recipe, I didn't frost or decorate it, but I know that when I make it next time (and I will be making it again!) that it will be super cute with Halloween or fall decorations and a fun frosting.  This would be perfect for a Halloween Birthday!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Spicy Franks crockpot chicken

I've been getting a lot of positive feedback on my crockpot meals.  A lot of parents don't necessarily have the time to cook a huge meal after school and work.  I get it!  My crockpot saves me so much time and frustration!  So here is another recipe for those of you looking for a yummy meal that saves you time and effort. 

1-2 lbs of chicken.  I use boneless skinless breasts. 
1/2 big bottle of Frank's Red Hot sauce
1 packet of ranch seasoning

Put the chicken on the bottom of the crockpot.  You can spray the crockpot with non stick spray first. I usually forget this step but never have had a problem with it sticking.  Pour the packet of seasoning right over the chicken.  Then pour the Franks sauce over that.  You can use more or less, depending on how hot you want it.  It's pretty darn spicy with half of the bottle.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  When it is done, the chicken will pull apart and shred with little effort. 

I eat this plain, with a little blue cheese dressing to dip it in, or I top a salad with it.  My Husband and son love it in sandwiches with blue cheese dressing, lettuce and a wrap or roll.  It would be awesome for a bbq, too, with some corn on the cob and pasta salad on the side.  Super yummy and extremely easy to make.  Enjoy!