Holiday Hot Chocolate Mousse

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

hot-chocolate-mousse

I am all about quick and easy, especially when the holidays roll around.  My to-do list is a mile long, generally getting longer by the minute, so I am always looking for short cuts.  I consolidate my shopping trips, buy some items pre-made and use mixes as recipe starters. All of this saves me time and money, yet still allows me to make fantastic meals, snacks and desserts to impress family and friends.

I had the most amazing chocolate mousse at our company picnic this summer.  It was flavorful, creamy and had an amazing texture. After getting the recipe from my co-worker, I realized it was also far more time consuming than I had any interest in pursuing. With the holidays right around the corner, I decided to try my hand at a less labor intensive version of chocolate mousse.

hot-chocolate-mousse-cups

Chocolate mousse is much lighter and fluffier than chocolate pudding. It’s all of the air in the whipped egg whites that make it so puffy and delicious. Rather than melting and flavoring chocolate from scratch, I decided to take a product I love, Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix, and use it as a base for my mousse. Mousse is really a simple recipe. Along with your chocolate base, all you need it egg whites, cream and a little sugar. Since I’m always using short cuts, I skipped the cream and used Reddi-wip® instead. After all, Reddi-wip® is made from real cream.

whipped-egg-whites
The most complicated part of this whole recipe is whipping the egg whites, but if you follow these simple rules, you won’t disappoint yourself.

Use a glass or metal bowl.  No plastic.

Make sure your bowl is super clean and free of oil (including residue from your fingers).

Make sure not to get any yolk in your egg whites.  Separate each egg into a small bowl, then transfer the separated white into your large bowl.  Doing this will keep you from messing up several egg whites when you accidentally bust a yolk.

Don’t add the sugar to your egg whites until they are already forming peaks.

fold-chocolate-into-merangue
Your chocolate base (details in the recipe below) gets folded into your egg whites while it is still hot, essentially “cooking” the whites, making them completely safe to eat.

This recipe is so simple!  It will definitely be the easiest mousse you will ever make.  I can’t wait for you to try it.  What are some of your favorite holiday dessert shortcuts?  Share them with us here in the comments or on Facebook.

Holiday Hot Chocolate Mousse

Holiday Hot Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 6 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 8 Packets Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix
  • 1 Cup Reddi-Wip® (plus additional for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Separate egg whites into a clean, glass or metal bowl. Discard yolks. Allow to reach room temperature.
  2. Using a mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until the egg whites more than double in volume and begin to form peaks.
  3. Add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating the egg whites until firm peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the Reddi-Wip® and Swiss Miss packets. Stir to combine and heat until bubbling.
  5. Gently fold the hot chocolate mixture into the egg whites. Fold until mixed. Do not over mix.
  6. Transfer the mousse mixture into individual serving glasses or ramekins and refrigerate overnight before serving.
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Find Marie Callender’s Dessert Pies, Swiss Miss and Reddi-wip® products in a Kroger or Kroger banner store near you. Kroger banners include Dillons, King Soopers, Frys, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, QFC, Smiths, and Harris Teeter. Find a store near youReceive a FREE Reddi-wip® (6.5 oz) when you buy one Marie Callender’s Fruit or Cream Pie (11/16-11/24).*

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*Discount automatically applied at register with qualifying purchase. Must use shopper card with purchase. Participating locations only. Offer expires 11/24/16. See store for additional details. Limit 1 per transaction.

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Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Fudge

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

dark-chocolate-peppermint-fudge-recipe

My family only really gets together for two big holidays per year, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Those are the two days that we can get everyone in the same place, spend hours catching up on everyone’s lives, and enjoy some great food.  There is always great food.  No matter how many of the delicious mains and sides we enjoy, we always save room for coffee and dessert.  We love sharing coffee and dessert while listening to stories about what everyone is doing in life, what each has planned in the coming year, and inevitably there stories told of days gone by.  Those are my favorite!

And where there’s coffee, there is always International Delight® Coffee Creamer.

My family and I, we all love our coffee, so it’s no surprise that coffee would be a big part of our holiday gatherings too.  For most of us, it’s a part of our everyday routine.  I get up, head to my office, usually track down my coffee cup from the day before and head straight to the kitchen for a hot cup of coffee flavored with International Delight® Coffee Creamer.  Now that International Delight® Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer is back on the shelves for the holiday season, almost everyday is a peppermint kind of day!  Some days are an International Delight® Salted Caramel Mocha Coffee Creamer kind of day.

What would the holidays be without a delicious chunk of fudge?  Creamy, gooey, delicious fudge is always a hit!  My Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge recipe uses International Delight® Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer in place of other liquids, lending both a great flavor and a unique texture.  It also helps keep your ingredient list short and makes this fudge recipe a money saver too!  My co-workers don’t know it yet, but they can expect to see this fudge in a break room in a few weeks.  I can’t wait to share it with them.  They are all coffee drinkers, like me, and I know they will enjoy this Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge with a warm cup of coffee as much as I do.

how-to-make-peppermint-fudgeFudge doesn’t have to be scary.  You don’t need special equipment or tools, just a small sauce pan, a glass bowl and a dish (for forming your fudge).  You can nest a glass bowl over a small sauce pan filled with a little water to mimic a double boiler.  This keeps you from burning your chocolate. It’s as simple as melting three in, stirring in a fourth, pouring and sprinkling. You can totally do that, right?

melted-fudgeThe hardest part of the whole process is not sampling from the bowl as you’re melting the chocolate.  Don’t worry though!  After you dump that delicious chocolate mixture into your pan for forming, there will surely be a little clinging to the edges.  The cook gets to lick the bowl, right?  That’s the way it works in my family.  Give this super simple fudge recipe a try and let me know what you think.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Fudge

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Fudge

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Dark Chocolate Chips (for a sweeter fudge, you may substitute semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 Cup International Delight® Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (half a stick)
  • 1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • Crushed Peppermints (Optional)

Instructions

  1. In a double boiler (or similar set up), melt the chocolate chips, creamer and butter.
  2. Stir the mixture frequently to combine the ingredients.
  3. Once the mixture is completely liquid and smooth, add the powdered sugar and stir until completely combined.
  4. Spread the mixture into a pan lined with wax paper.
  5. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints.
  6. Refrigerate the fudge for 2-3 hours or until completely cool.
  7. Remove the fudge from the pan and cut it into cubes.
  8. Store in an air tight container.
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You can find International Delight® Coffee Creamers in a variety of flavors, including Peppermint Mocha and Salted Caramel Mocha at your local Walmart.  Most stores have a large bin display of creamers, but if you can’t find that, you can always find them in the refrigerator case.

where-to-find-international-delight

Check out other great holiday recipes like mine by clicking here.  And, watch the video below for a great Pumpkin Pie Spice Frappe Recipe!

Who will you share your International Delight® with this Holiday season?

Posted in Recipes | 2 Comments

American Girl Doll Giveaway

2016-american-girl-giveawaypin

Enter to win American Girl’s
2016 Girl of the Year
Lea Clark

Lea Clark™, the 2016 Girl of the Year, dives in to new adventures and explores what’s in her heart. The 18″ Lea doll is only available until 12/31/16, or while supplies last. This American Girl Doll giveaway is for a Lea Clark American Girl Doll, Lea’s Exclusive Collection, and her book Lea Dives In–written by Lisa Yee, valued at $180. Giveaway ends on December 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm. Shipping just in time for the holidays!

Details

Meet Lea, the 2016 Girl of the Year™! She dives in to new adventures and explores what’s in her heart. The 18″ Lea doll has warm hazel eyes that open and close, and long, light-brown wavy hair with sun-kissed highlights. She has a huggable cloth body, and her movable head and limbs are made of smooth vinyl. Lea and her bundled starter set ($180 value!) comes with:

  • Brazilian festival outfit: A bright, multicolored dress, featuring an attached braided belt and braided trim on the straps
  • Sandals with crisscrossed laces
  • Underwear
  • An embroidered canvas messenger bag with colorful woven straps
  • A pretend compass necklace
  • Lea Dives In paperback book
  • Lea’s Beach Dress (available only in this collection): A tie-dye-print dress with bows at the shoulders
  • Green flip-flop sandals
  • Matching sunglasses
  • A pretty butterfly hair clip

American Girl Doll Giveaway – Lea Clark 2016 Girl of the Year

Sponsored by:

Mama Mommy Mom

My Mommy Brain

Good Girl Gone Redneck

Sunny with a Chance of Sprinkles

It’s me, debcb!

Beauty in the Mess

Merlot Mommy

Emmy Mom

Penney Lane

Amber Nicole

Embellishmints

Kiss My Tulle

Simply {Darr}ling

Adventures In Familyhood

A Madison Mom

The Best Crowe’s Nest

 

 

 

Terms & Conditions
This American Girl Doll Giveaway is open to US Residents 18 years of age or older. Giveaways ends December 11th at 11:59 PM ET. Winner will be chosen by random drawing. Winner will have 48 hours to reply via email to accept the prize or another winner will be chosen. All entries will be validated. Sponsors reserve the right to invalidate any entry at their discretion. Entering will add your email to our mailing lists. We NEVER share our contacts.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with American Girl, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest.

Posted in Current Giveaways, Giveaways | 8 Comments

The Coffee Table Test

The Coffee Table TestLike many of you, I stayed up far to late Tuesday night / Wednesday morning, watching the election results roll in.  I’m still suffering from an election hangover.  My emotions were all over the place, and any time emotions run high, exhaustion surely follows.  If you had asked me Tuesday morning who I thought would win, I would’ve said “Clinton”.  By 10 pm, I wasn’t so sure.  At midnight, things were looking really dicey.  2 am rolled around and I gave up.  Off to bed I went, knowing that the likelihood of a Clinton presidency was slim.

Wednesday morning, I woke up knowing there were going to be a lot of unhappy people.  I don’t normally hit up Facebook until later in the day, but the morning after election day required a break in routine.  I opened the app on my phone and I was immediately assaulted with a slew of spewing hatred.  Hatred from the people who just spent the last 6 months saying they couldn’t vote for a man who said such terrible things about people.  Is aw friends calling friends racist, bigots, homophobes, uneducated, redneck and a whole list of other hateful words.  FRIENDS calling FRIENDS these things.  I saw friends posting blanket “If you voted for Trump, unfriend me now” statements.  It was ridiculous.

I generally avoid discussing politics in any manner on social media, but I felt inclined to share something.  I posted this to the MMM Facebook Page:

“So much judgement this morning.

We, especially women, live under a cloud of judgement for the decisions we make as parents everyday. We try our best to make decisions based on our beliefs of what is best for our families and our circumstances.

I believe what happened last night with the election was no different.

It is my opinion, and the opinion of many Americans, that neither of our candidates were a good choice. I choose to believe that most people, just like me, had to make a very tough decision yesterday, a decision that was based on what they believe to be best for their families.

Please take a minute to think about that before you start posting Facebook statuses calling each other out, asking people to unfriend you or otherwise passing an immense amount of judgement.

Believe it or not, you’re just spreading the hate you say you were fighting against and putting yourselves on the front lines of what will divide our country even more than it already is.”

About 10 years ago, a woman I’ve grown to admire very much introduced me to the concept of “The Coffee Table” test.  The Coffee Table Test is basically this:

Before you post something online, stop and ask yourself, would I sit down with you – a coffee table between us – and say this to your face?  In the vast majority of cases, the answer is no.  America needs the coffee table test.

Having a difference of opinion isn’t a reason to end a friendship.  Having a difference of opinion is an opportunity, a chance to have meaningful conversation and the chance to learn something new or possibly even see an issue in a new light.

Everyone who voted for Trump isn’t a uneducated, homophobic, racist, woman hater who wants to see our country go to war.

Everyone who voted for Clinton isn’t a man-hating, baby-killing, gun control nut-job.

But one thing they all are?  People.  Real life humans who deserve just as much respect as you do.  So, before you spew hate from either side of the fence, imagine yourself sitting across the coffee table.

 

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How To Make A Cat Scratch Pad

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are my own. #ToPetsWithLove #CollectiveBias

cat-scratch-pad-diyIf you follow me on Instagram, you already know how much my cats are a part of my life. They are the last to tell me goodbye on my way out the door and the first to greet me when I come home. They know when I’m feeling down, the provide constant entertainment and they are teaching me new things everyday.

Reese (adopted from the Michigan Humane Society in June) and Evie (adopted from the Michigan Humane Society in September) make my furry little world complete. Since being adopted, their lives have changed dramatically. They are living the lifestyle of pampered pets and loving it! I’m always picking up treats or toys for them when I’m out shopping at Kroger (they have a huge pet selection). Buying them quality food and treats is important to me because I know what I feed them can affect their health.

Sometimes I get crafty make things for them too! They both enjoy laying on crocheted blankets by the fireplace, rolling around with catnip balls and “fishing” with t-shirt yarn and stuffed mice. Today, I’m going to show you how to make a scratch pad for your pampered pets. The awesome part is that if you are a crafter, you probably have everything you need already.

instakittySo, let’s make a hanging scratch pad for our kitties.  To start, you only need a few supplies: scrap wood, paint, paint brush, hot glue gun/glue sticks, scissors and jute.  Pallet scraps are excellent for this project.  You don’t need a very specific size, just make sure it’s wide enough and long enough to allow your kitties ample scratching space. Do be sure to clean up any very rough edges. I had some thinner strips of scrap, so I tacked three together to make a single piece about 6 inches wide.  Teal is our accent color in the family room, so teal it is!  Raw wood tends to really soak up paint, so don’t be shy.

painting-pallet-scrapsI only painted a single coat.  I like the way it turned out.  You can continue adding coats until you’re happy with the finish.  That old saying about curiosity holds true with both Reese and Evie, so I gave them a much needed distraction.. Fancy Feast Purely wet cat food.  These guys LOVE it.  It has real chicken, beef and seafood and no fillers or by-products.  There are seriously whole shrimp in there. I was a little jealous.

fancy-feast-purely-cat-foodYou can see above that I got really good coverage with just one coat of paint.  You want to make sure that your piece is completely dry before moving forward.  If it’s not, you’ll end up with paint all over your fingers (any your work surface). Foam brushes work great for this, and they are super inexpensive, so no worries about just tossing it when you’ve finished painting.

making-a-cat-scratch-padOnce your painted wood scrap is dry, grab your jute and cut a piece long enough to create your hanger. You want the piece of jute to be long enough to reach from the middle (right edge) of the wood scrap, over the knob you intend to hang your scratch pad off of, and back to the middle (left side) of the wood. Glue the jute ends to the left and right sides, midway down your wood piece as shown below.

Next, grab the end of your jute spool and glue it down about an inch or so from the bottom on the backside of your wood piece. That space you leave at the bottom makes the finished product look a little more decorative. Now, using generous amounts of glue, simply add glue and wrap. Repeat this process one row at a time until you’re about 4 inches or so from the top of the wood piece. As you are wrapping over the area where your hanger attaches, be sure to keep that string positioned evenly. When you reach the end of your wrapping area, use the loose end to tie around the hanger string on the back. This just adds a little extra strength to the finish.

tying-up-loose-endsThe only thing left to do is clean up any random strings of hot glue and hang your new cat scratch pad for your kitties. I lined a few pieces of Friskies Party Mix along the top row of jute to encourage exploration, and it certainly did! Both of my girls love the crunchy and delicious treats, and their interest is always peaked by the variety of flavors and accompanying scents.

cat-scratch-post-diySpread the holiday love to your furry friends with the help of Purina! Now through the end of November, take advantage of great savings on your favorite Purina pet products available at Kroger with this Coupons.com link, while supplies last.

fancy-feast-purelyYou will find a world of options for your pets while doing your regular shopping at Kroger.  No time is busier than the holidays, and who has time for running from specialty store to specialty store?  Kroger has an extensive pet aisle, complete with everything you need to care for and treat your pets.  Selecting quality products, like Fancy Feast Purely and Friskies Party Mix from Purina, really shows how much you love your pets.  And like all pet owners know, you get that love back three-fold.

For more inspiration on how to show your pets the love they deserve, visit the Purina Social Hub.

kroger-cat-aisle**Not to be taken as professional veterinary advice.  Please consult your veterinarian for recommendations and practices appropriate for your pet.**

Posted in Crafts | 24 Comments

Wild Mushroom and Herb Stuffed Chicken

wild-mushroom-and-herb-stuffed-chickenLearn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS  and above all, have fun! ~ Julia Child

I remember hours of my childhood spent watching cooking shows like The Frugal Gourmet (Jeff Smith), Justin Wilson and others on PBS, but I remember being completely in awe of Julia Child.  There was something about her voice, the way she moved through the kitchen and her clear love of food that made me want to be like her.

In one of her recipes, Julia touts:

“You can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by roast chicken. While it does not require years of training to produce a juicy, brown, buttery, crisp-skinned, heavenly bird, it does entail such a greed for perfection that one is under compulsion to hover over the bird, listen to it, above all see that it is continually basted, and that it is done just to the proper turn.”

This is so true!  Giving the bird your full attention will make the difference in a deliciously crispy, beautiful bird and one that is overcooked and over crisp.

Wild MushroomsAside from the bird, mushrooms are the heart of this recipe.  The original called for a mixture of dried and fresh mushrooms, but as I’ve said in the past, I’m big on adjusting your recipe based on what you have available to you.  Dried mushrooms aren’t readily available to me, and while I could have spent the time to find them at another store father across town, why bother when I can simply adjust?

Wild Mushroom and Herb Stuffed Chicken

Wild Mushroom and Herb Stuffed Chicken

Ingredients

  • Wild Mushroom and Herb Stuffed Chicken
  • 4 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms
  • 4 oz Shitake Mushrooms
  • 8 oz White Mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup chopped Herbs (a mixture of Parsley, Sage and Chives)
  • 1 Chicken (5-6 lbs)

Instructions

  1. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rough chop your mushrooms into 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces. Heat the oil and butter in a pan, add the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms have released their juices. In a bowl, mix the sauteed mushrooms, salt, pepper, garlic and herbs together and set it aside to cool.
  3. While your stuffing cools, sit your chicken on it's bottom with the neck end up, and use your fingers to gently separate the skin from the breast and thighs of the chicken. You want to be careful not to tear the skin, as it is what holds the stuffing in place.
  4. Once the stuffing is cool enough to handle, gentle spoon the stuffing into the space between the skin and breasts, using your hands to work the stuff down into the thigh areas and continue stuffing until you have a nice even layer also covering the breast area.
  5. At this point, you can truss or not truss your chicken. You can find instructions for trussing a chicken here. While trussing certainly isn't mandatory, it does help hold your stuffing in place and keep everything nice and presentable.
  6. Your chicken goes into a roasting pan, breast side up, and in the center of the oven for approximately 20 minutes per pound. You will want to listen to your chicken. About 30 minutes in, you'll start to hear some sizzling. That means it's time to pull out the bird and give it a good baste. You'll continue to baste approximately every 30 minutes through the cooking process. A meat thermometer is the best way to know your bird is done. An internal temperature of 165 is considered safe for poultry, but I tend to go to about 170.
  7. When your bird comes out, let it rest for a minute before removing it from the pan. The drippings from the pan make an excellent gravy, though the bird is so moist and delicious that you certainly don't need it!
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How pretty is this???

wild-mushroom-and-herb-stuffed-chicken-2 It was delicious too.  I’m pretty sure roasted chickens will be on our menu more often from this point out.  I’m already plotting what else I can stuff between my chickens and their skin.  The flavors, the skin, it’s all just perfect!

Posted in Recipes | 30 Comments

The Realities of Thanksgiving Dinner


Thanksgiving FeastThanksgiving is less than a month away and I am already dreaming about two very specific things. The first thing, I can’t tell you about yet…it’s a secret (you’ll find out the last week of November). The other, well that’s easy – FOOD. All the foods. Drunken turkey (hint – it’s cooked in wine), cornbread and sage dressing, homemade mac n cheese and broccoli casserole. Basically, all of the things that could make my drive back to Michigan long and miserable. I say “could” because there are products out there to help you #GetReliefFromTheFeast .

LactaidAvailable both in capsules and chewables, LACTAID® can help make dairy less scary and allow you to enjoy those cheese-filled dishes (like my aunt’s mac n cheese) or a scoop of ice cream with your warm apple pie! Look for a coupon in your 11/6 Sunday paper to save up to $3 on IMODIUM®, PEPCID® and LACTAID® and find all three brands at your local Walmart. Check out this link to learn more about Walmart’s selection of digestive aids.

Here are some other tips to help #GetReliefFromTheFeast

  • Veggies are good.  Vegging is bad.  After you’ve had that glorious meal, the worst thing you can do for your digestion is pile up on the couch and kick back to some football.  You’d be better served to go outside and play some football!  Stay up, stay active.  Moving around helps aid digestion.
  • Give yourself a break.  Don’t jump right from the turkey straight to the apple pie.  Give your meal a chance to “settle”.  Spend time enjoying your family, play that game of football and come back for dessert later.
  • When you do come back for dessert, limit how much sugar you take in.  All of that ooey, gooey sweetness actually makes it harder for your body to properly digest everything you’ve consumed.
  • Drink lots of water.  Enough said.  Water is good!
  • Eat plenty of fiber.  It helps everything digest and “move” int he right direction.

While the food is great, what I am most looking forward to is time with my family.  I don’t get to see them often since I moved to Michigan.  There is no amount of delicious mac n cheese that can make up for missing them.

What are you most looking forward to?

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Pack and Go – Healthy Options When You’re Always On The Go

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #V8Mornings #CollectiveBias

rambutanLife on the go can be stressful.  I leave home between 6:00 and 6:30 am and don’t get home until around 6:00 or 6:30 pm.  Factor in sleep, and I get about 4 hours a day to do all the things.  Showering, eating, cleaning, and just sitting down for a few minutes are quick to cut into that precious sliver of time.  The last thing on my mind at the end of the day is how many servings of veggies I’ve had.  But, when I neglect to eat those vital bounties of the Earth, my body will give me a quick reminder.  I will start craving them, to the point that I want nothing that isn’t a salad or a full plate of veggies.  I’m sure many of you can relate.

whats-in-my-go-bagOne way I make sure to keep my body running on healthy fuel is to make sure I never run out of available options.  I pack what I call my “Go-Bag” and take it with me every day.  My Go-Bag has a change of clothes (exercise friendly), shoes, a book and a bag of non-perishable (but healthy!) snack options.  On days I’m headed into the office, I toss in a cooler bag with my lunch and some other perishable snacks for the day.  I also take help where I can get it.  Great products like V8® Veggie Blends help me start my day out right.  With a full serving of veggies in every 8 oz glass, V8® Veggie Blends: Berry Bliss (my new favorite flavor) helps me start my day ahead of the curve.

v8-veggie-blendsI will be the first to admit, it is hard not to constantly eat junk when you don’t have a pantry and refrigerator full of options right at your fingertips.  I used to pack a lunch and two small snacks a day, but I found myself “not feeling” what I packed for snacks and I would wander my way to the convenience store for junk or end up in someone’s candy dish.  That’s when I started a “more is more” approach.  By packing enough items everyday to give myself choices, I find that I am more likely to find something that satisfies me and less likely to seek out alternatives.

dark-chocolate-peanut-butter-apple-dippersSo, you want to pack your own Go-Bag?  Here’s some suggestions…

  1. Size Matters – Don’t be skimpy when you’re picking out a bag to serve as your Go-Bag.  Remember, you want to have enough room to carry several days worth of non-perishable snacks and several perishable options for each day, plus you need room for you lunch too!  When your cruising the aisles of Walmart, swing by and check out the “accessories” section for some bag options.
  2. Pack a full change of clothes (preferably comfortable clothes you could work out in – you never know when the opportunity might present itself!). Don’t forget shoes.  I wear heels most days, so I hate to imagine what I might look like if I needed to use my change of clothes and didn’t have other shoes!
  3. Use storage baggies to organize your non-perishable snacks. (See a list below for non-perishable snack suggestions.)  Don’t skimp either.  Keep a nice selection for yourself and remember to refresh them as you starting taking from your stash.  Look for snacks that are high in protein.  They will fill you up and make you feel more satisfied.
  4. Pack an empty water bottle.  You can almost always find somewhere to fill them up and it might come in handy some day!
  5. Pack a book or crossword puzzle.  Just a little something to keep you busy if you find yourself with free time.  Both are also nice ways to enjoy your lunch break.
  6. Pack a cooler bag with lunch and several perishable snack options.  (See the list below for perishable snack suggestions.) Look for new ways to enjoy old favorites.  Add dried cherries to yogurt or pineapple to cottage cheese.  Chop a little dark chocolate and mix it with peanut butter for a delicious apple or banana dip.
  7. Don’t forget an ice pack, or you can freeze a bottle of your favorite beverage – perhaps one of the two new flavors of V8® Veggie Blends: Berry Bliss and Caribbean Greens.  Both come in 46oz. and 12oz. sizes.
  8. Take your bag everywhere.

healthy-snackssnacks

Note – That crazy looking fruit you’ve seen twice now… that’s called Rambuta.  I found it while trolling the produce section at Walmart.  I am always looking for something interesting to add to my snack selection and it really caught my attention.  To my surprise, I really like it!

As far as your actual lunch goes, I suggest packing left overs from dinner when at all possible.  Chances are, your dinner included veggies and this is a great way to make sure you are getting all of those daily recommended servings in your diet.  Plus, packing leftovers is a breeze.  It literally takes seconds, helps with your clean up and there’s no extra prep since you were cooking anyway!

Start your day with V8® Veggie Blends.  V8® Veggie Blends are an easy, affordable way to help meet your recommended daily intake of veggies.  Did you know that recommends 2-1/2 – 3 cups of veggies per day for adults? V8® Veggie Blends are a healthy beverage option to squeeze in a serving of vegetables with the great taste of fruit.  They are a great way to start the day.  Each 8oz. serving is 60 calories or less with no sugar added and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

V8® Veggie Blends: Berry Bliss and V8® Veggie Blends: Caribbean Greens are so new that they aren’t even on the website yet, but you can check out the other great flavors here or stop by and check out all of the V8® brand products on their social media sites below.  You can find the new flavors as well as your existing favorites at your local Walmart.

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Posted in Food, Health/Wellness | 1 Comment

Simple Rosemary Pork Chops

I honestly forgot that I planted rosemary.  It lies just to the right of my towering chives and just to the left of the oregano bush that plans to take over the world.  I forgot you, Rosemary.  Something made me pull some chives for my egg white omelet this morning, and there you were.  Pretty.  Green.  Hidden.  Perfect for a simple dinner: Rosemary Pork Chops.

Grilled Rosemary Pork - MamaMommyMomIf you’ve never cooked with fresh Rosemary, you really should.  The flavor is amazing.  It’s really easy to remove the leaves from the woody stems… Just grasp the spring at the top with both hands and pull the sprig through your fingers.  The leaves fall right off.

How to Remove Rosemary Leaves - MamaMommyMom Rosemary PorkNow, chop the bejesus out of it.  It smells so good…

How to Chop Rosemary - MamaMommyMom Rosemary Pork The marinade is simple, and the measurements need not be exact.  You want roughly 1/4 cup chopped rosemary, a tablespoon/tablespoon and a half of sea salt, about a teaspoon of fresh ground pepper (I use a 5 peppercorn blend), 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, and about 1/4 cup red wine vinegar.

Rosemary Pork Marinade - MamaMommyMom Rosemary PorkAnd, the pork.  Only $5 for the pack.  Thicker would have been better, but I work with what I have.  I hate fatty meat.  Hate it.  I look for the least marbled steak, only by the super lean ground beef, and I proudly cut every inch of visible fat off of my chicken breasts and any other meat I buy.  Get in there and use your hands, massaging the marinade into the pork.

Rosemary Pork Chops - MamaMommyMomTo the grill!  Medium heat.  I only flip mine when the meat has ‘released’ itself from the grate.  See the juice there on the plate?  So good…

Grilled Rosemary Pork Chops - MamaMommyMomRosemary is a super fragrant little plant.  My hands still smell like it.  It would make a fantastic scent for a kitchen soap.  It’s a hardy little bugger too.  I don’t think I’ve ever killed rosemary (though by typing that, I probably just sealed this plant’s fate.)

What’s your favorite thing to do with rosemary?

Posted in Recipes | 54 Comments

The 7 Best Ways To Empower Young Minds

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Preparing your children for college begins the moment they become curious about the world around them. For students to be most productive at the college level, they should be curious about the world around them and willing to delve into educational topics beyond the surface level. In short, your child should have an appreciation for learning new things.

For most, this is not a switch the flips on after graduating from high school. They will have been reared with an ongoing expectation that attending college will be the next logical step. To do this, young minds need to be nurtured constantly and empowered to set and accomplish challenge goals.

Create an environment that empowers your child with the following suggestions.

  1. Encourage your children to explore their environment. This doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Take walks around your neighborhood and challenge them to identify elements in nature. Spend time observing creatures in their natural habitats. Help your children make sense of the world around them.
  2. Expose your children to different cultures. You can either do this virtually or by venturing into communities around you. Shop at a culturally specific grocery store to create meals from another part of the world. Attend a festival that celebrates a different culture to enjoy the sights and sounds of people from other parts of the world.
  3. Engage your children with open ended questions. Ask questions to show interest in how your child thinks and feels. This creates a dialogue that will help your children become expressive and learn to communicate well.
  4. Explore college campuses in your area. When children can see the next logical step, the process becomes more realistic. Talk about the steps you’ll need in order to fund a college degree and hard work each person should put in ahead of time in order to make matriculating to college a reality.
  5. Entertain your child’s attempts to dream out loud. Help your children set goals and figure out how they can realistically accomplish those goals.
  6. Experiment with various activities. This will give your children an opportunity to try new things and discover hidden talents. While your children may not excel at everything, the exposure can help you identify additional activities to guide your children toward to nurture skills that they may naturally possess.
  7. Enjoy educational opportunities. Help your children understand that learning new things can be a lot of fun. Frequent trips to museums and cultural institutions of learning open your child to new worlds beyond their everyday experiences.

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We only have a short time to pour into our children and create a lasting impact that affects how they relate to education. The tips above don’t have to cost much money or require an exorbitant amount of time on top of your existing busy schedules. It’s important to leverage the time you have and resources available to empower the young minds within your sphere of influence. These early experiences can make a deeper impact on the rest of your child’s educational experience and thus their lives.

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Hilary Smith has writing in her blood and communications on her brain. This yoga enthusiast appreciates a daily workout and loves keeping time with two children. A mother by day and writer by night, Hillary keeps abreast of the latest tech apps as she focuses in on the field of digital parenting.

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