I’ve avoided watching Food Inc. And Forks Over Knives. And Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. And Fed Up. I’ve avoided watching them because I’m scared. I’m afraid that watching them will make me want to change our food and eating habits, but that I won’t be able to do it, and all I’ll do is add a whole new layer of guilt and shame if I do hit the drive thru for lunch on errand day.
Because here’s the thing. I LIKE sugar. I have the sweet tooth of a 12 year old. While I love dark, dark chocolate and York Peppermint Patties (forever associated as a “grown up” sweet because of my parents) I also loooooove Nerds, Gobstoppers, and other ridiculous things that turn your mouth all the colors of the rainbow.
But it’s got to stop.
As I head into the final quarter of my “Year of Do,” I’m finally doing the thing that I’ve been putting off for so long. I’m going to try to make the change. And I’m starting off with a 30-Day Sugar Detox for October, because of course it’s happening in the most candy-laden month of the year.
I’m not doing it my own, though. My amazing friend Kelly, of The Centsible Life, kicked sugar last year through a 30-day detox, and she survived. She survived so well, in fact, that she’s starting a support group to do this detox for October.
Want to join us? You can sign up on her website. She’ll be doing daily emails, and there’s a Facebook group too. I’ve got to do something, because I’m not happy with what’s going on right now, so I’m biting the bullet and making a change.
Have you quit sugar? How’d it go? Any survival tips for me?
It’s FOOTBALL SEASON! I love my boys of summer and baseball, but there’s something to be said for football. When I was a kid, we weren’t a big sports family, but I do remember how my dad always went all out with the snacks for big games. And one of his specialties was nachos. He would pile them high and put them under the broiler in the kitchen, until the cheese was ooey gooey and delicious.
What I’ve done is taken that classic party food, nachos, and made a tailgate friendly version. With a little bit of advance preparation and a cast iron skillet, you too can make these nachos in a stadium parking lot near you!
When I say “advance preparation,” there’s one specific thing I’m talking about: making my King of Flavor chips to serve as the base for your nachos. What do you do? It’s infusing the delicious spice of El Yucateco Red Habanero Hot Sauce onto each and every chip in your nachos. I picked up both Red and Green Habanero Hot Sauces at Walmart.
They’re easy, but you’ll need to do this part ahead of time; in the morning before you leave is fine; they cool quickly, so you don’t need to leave a ton of time for these.
Tortilla chips; I recommend a thicker cut chip, to better hold up to the sauce application.
3 Tablespoons El Yucateco Red Habanero Hot Sauce
3 Tablespoons oil (I used olive, canola would work just as well)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Mix equal parts El Yucateco and oil in a lidded container.
I used 3 Tablespoons of each to do most of a standard size bag of chips.
(The main thing is to maintain equal parts hot sauce and oil)
Seal container and shake well to combine oil and hot sauce.
Using a pastry brush, apply liberally to one side of each chip.
Lay chips in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
Start baking time at 20 minutes, go longer in 5 minute increments if needed until chips are dry to the touch.
Once your chips are made, you can prep other things to take with you; I browned some ground turkey and grated a whole bunch of cheese. (Side note: I never use pre-shredded cheese for stuff like nachos where the melt factor is so important; the pre-shredded stuff has a coating on it to keep it from clumping, and it can make it melt weird.)
Once you get to your tailgating site, it’s time to prep the nachos! Get all of your ingredients out and start layering! I used a layer of non-sauced chips at the bottom of the pan, in case they burned or got stuck, I didn’t want to waste that lovely flavor!
The great thing about cooking with cast iron is that you can basically do anything to it, including put it on the grill, so it’s the perfect vessel for grilled nachos. Build a smallish fire in the grill; you’re reheating more than anything else, so you don’t need it to be roaring.
Be sure to close the lid and let it go for about 10 minutes; the grill gives an amazing smokiness to the nachos, and then with the kick of El Yucateco on every chip, the amount of flavor in this one pan is mindblowing.
Once you take the nachos of the grill (Careful! Hot pan!) you can add the finishing touches; we added some fresh pico de gallo and sour cream to finish off ours.
El Yucateco Red Habanero has less vinegar than other hot sauces, so it’s more of a pure pepper flavor, so you don’t need a ton to pack a punch. Having it there under every bite of these nachos meant that there were none of those sad nachos that you normally find, those lonely chips with no goodness that are always left behind. King of Flavor means there’s a kick in every bite.
How spicy do you like your spicy? Are you a classic Red Habanero, or do you want the extra zip of Green Habanero? Or are you really adventurous and go for the XXX Habanero, made from an ancient Mayan recipe? How do you El Yucateco?
There’s something I remember doing when I was a kid that drove my mom insane. No matter how short on time we were, no matter how important it was that we get out the door, there was one thing that could always be counted on, and now it’s payback time for me.
Max, just like me, is unable to resist the lure of reading a cereal box when placed on the table in front of him. It doesn’t even matter what the box says; if it’s there, he’s sucked in and reading it within moments of sitting down.
I have to admit though, it’s one of those parenting moments that makes me sigh and smile a little, a reminder that the world is always spinning, and that even though it’s been 30 years, Max and I are both lured into reading the cereal box.
Cheerios™ with sliced up banana was a staple breakfast of my growing up years, and now it’s the same for Max. And again, I smile, because the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Another way to share the smiles? How about sending a box of Cheerios™ to a friend? No, this doesn’t involve annoyingly long lines at the post office and looking for the packing tape that you could swear you just put in that drawer the other day. It’s easy to give a box and share the Cheerios™ smiles. Pick up a specially marked box at Walmart, and you’ll get a code to send a box to a friend.
I sent a box to Amanda, who blogs at Old House to New Home. She’s got a million delicious looking recipes on her blog, but I also thought that maybe, just maybe, she’d love a yellow box of happy. (But wait! This offer extends to many varieties! Honey Nut, Multi-Grain, Apple Cinnamon and Frosted Cheerios™ are all included!)
All I needed to send her box was an email address, and then I could choose from a few different designs for what kind of e-card I would send with letting her know about her Cheerios™. They’re all adorable, but I went with this one:Once I had sent off Amanda’s box, I was craving my old childhood favorite, but instead wanted to put a fun twist on it. And what a twist I came up with!These waffles, topped with sizzled bananas, take everything up to the next level. The bananas are so simple, and seem so fancy, no one will realize just how easy they are, but they’re lovely and delicious.You don’t even need a real recipe for this topping; I had a couple of bananas that were almost too ripe to eat; their skins had gone brown, so Max was convinced they were inedible, but inside, the fruit is perfectly sweet and delicious. I melted lots of butter in a nonstick pan over medium high heat, and then added the sliced bananas. A little sprinkle of sugar on top to help them get golden brown, and it’s done! Flip the bananas over after a few moments, to warm both sides, then just pour it all over your waiting waffles, butter and all. Oh. My. YUM.And now for the waffles themselves:
Crush Cheerios™ to approximately a flour-like texture. I use my blender’s pulse function until everything is ground up. You’ll want to yield about 1 ½ cups once it’s ground up.
Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet ingredients in another, then combine everything together.
Heat up your waffle iron to medium-high heat.
Pour batter onto hot waffle iron; let cook for 4-5 minutes.
These are more fragile than other waffles, so carefully remove from the waffle iron onto a plate.
Top waffles with sizzled bananas and enjoy!
Now that I’ve seen how well Cheerios™ can replace flour, I’m kind of obsessed with making all sorts of Cheerios™-flavored things! Pancakes and waffles, of course, but I’m also imagining some sort of banana muffin with some bonus goodness mixed in. Ooh! Or strawberry! Or blueberry! Yum. Eat all the Cheerios™!
Who would you send a box of Cheerios™ to? Have you ever tried doing something with Cheerios™ other than just eating them with milk? Share in the comments below!
Thursday was school picture day, so Max wore his suit to school. Unlike the previous two years, he didn’t wear a bow tie, and went with a casual R2-D2 tee under his jacket.
As he prepared to leave for the day, Jamie and I both reminded him to be careful in his suit pants; he’s only worn the suit a couple of times, and still has quite a few inches before they’re too short.
“Don’t go sliding around on your knees or anything,” Jamie said.
“Be careful they don’t get caught on something and rip,” I said.
“How could I ever hurt my pants AT SCHOOL?” Max asked.
Allow me to present Exhibit A, the previous day’s pants:
In related news, he totally looks like a real estate agent in his suit.
This post is part of a series documenting our homebuilt teardrop trailer. Please scroll to the bottom of this post for links to previous articles.
We started planning this project when Max was just a baby, so we thought we had a bunch of time to have him sleeping inside the trailer with us… as it is, we took it on its first trip right around when he turned 6 1/2, so he was much taller than he was at one year old. (As children tend to do)
So we may only have another year or so of Max being inside the trailer with us, before he moves out to the tent next door. (More on that in a later post) When that happens, we’ll take out the hammock we’ve made for him, and put in come cabinets instead.
In the meantime, we have crafted this hammock-styled cot for him, which fits perpendicular over our legs when we’re sleeping, kind of bunk bed style.
The supplies for this part are simple: two sets of metal closet rods, and about 2 yards of canvas. You only need the simplest of sewing skills to make this, I promise!
Jamie installed the closet rods with solid wood braces for extra support; they’re about 18″ apart:
I stitched the canvas to fit. Pockets running along each long edge, I whipped this up in about an hour, and was able to slide it right onto the rods, and was a perfect fit. Don’t forget to hem the short edges first, though, BEFORE you do the pockets.
He was pretty excited about it from the beginning.
UPDATE: We used it for four or five trips last year, and then noticed that the seams were ripping in some spots, mostly where Max would dig in his knee to climb up. We wanted to rebuild it a bit to have more strength, so we tried a different design. For the second time, we made a single big loop of fabric that fit over both poles; think conveyer belt.
I ran a two rows of stitches down the middle of the cot, giving us more stitching and overlap to help support Max ever increasing weight. It’s held up great so far, will update as time passes if we have to do another version.
It seems like kids have been heading back to school for ages, but now that Labor Day has passed, I think we’re in the clear, right? I’ve put together this fun book swap party for you, to give you some ideas of ways you can get together with other parents who might suddenly have a little more freedom in the mornings.
Friend swaps are one of my favorite gatherings; I’ve done clothes, books, frozen foods, cookies, shoes, babysitting… there is no end to what you can swap. It’s budget-friendly and fun, and a great way to bring in new stuff while also clearing out some old. One of my personal favorites is a book swap; I’m always looking for things to read, and getting books that I know my friends loved, and sharing my favorites is the best!
My Books & Brunch party plan will get you set up for everything you need to host your own; I’ve got printables, recipes, crafts, decor ideas… it’s all ready to go. Just add friends and books!
But first things first; a delicious home-baked treat to be a centerpiece of the brunch. Honesty time / blogger talk: I had planned for this recipe to be a beautiful bundt cake, and then it didn’t come out of the pan prettily enough, so I had to scramble. And my Pecan Pie Spiced Chocolate Bread Pudding was born! And again, full disclosure? I think it’s more delicious than the cake by itself.
So this is a two-part process; first you’ll need to make the cake, then you’ll let it cool and sit for a day or so, and make it into the pudding. It breaks up really well over a few days, so you don’t need to commit a ton of time to make this, and the end result is INCREDIBLE.
1½ teaspoons Apple Pie Spice (or sub ½ t. cinnamon + ½ t. ground cloves)
2 Tablespoons butter (melted) + more for pan
2 cups milk
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Pillsbury™ Creamy Supreme® Cream Cheese Icing
Snapple® Apple Single 16oz
Preheat oven to 350.
Grease pan with cooking spray and flour
Follow instructions on cake box, substituting Mott's® Apple Sauce for oil.
Add in Apple Pie Spice
Mix in approx ¼ cup chopped pecans (vary amount to taste)
Smash 1 cup M&M's® Pecan Pie with flat blade slicer
Mix M&M's® into batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake per insrtuctions on box.
Preheat oven to 350
Generously butter 8" baking dish
Break cake up into bite-sized pieces and place into prepared pan. (I used about ¾ of a bundt cake)
Pour 2 Tablespoons melted butter over cake pieces.
In medium bowl, whip together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar until well blended.
Pour carefully over cake pieces.
Use a fork to press down on cake pieces to submerge all in custard mix.
Bake for approx. 60 minutes at 350, until top springs back when pressed.
A toothpick inserted in will come out wet but clean.
Serve warm with glaze.
Put generous tablespoon (or two) of Cream Cheese Icing into microwave safe cup
Add splash of Snapple® Apple
Heat in microwave in 20 second increments until melted.
Spoon glaze over bread pudding when serving.
I know I just dropped them in there, but can I take a minute to talk about these M&M’s® Pecan Pie? I’m not a Pumpkin Spice Latte girl, but I do love the flavors of the season, so Pecan Pie is basically the perfect option for me. I picked up my party supplies, including the M&M’s®, at Walmart, and now you can save $1.00 on M&M’s® with this coupon. They’re also giving away a Kitchen Aid mixer, so you can enter to win that here: MARS Bake In The Fun Sweepstakes
When I’m prepping for friends to come over, I like to do little things to help make it special, beyond just making a fresh pot of coffee instead of microwaving yesterday’s (again)
I’ve got a few things to help you put together your own Books & Brunch get together:
First things first, invitations! You can download the printable invite and print them at home, or even just fill in the PDF and then send it via email. I’ve got them ready to go for you!
When you’re looking to plan a party, don’t limit yourself to the obvious departments for decor ideas! I often buy a couple yards of fabric to act as the perfect tablecloth. Limitless options, and if you shop smart, it can be far less expensive than a traditional tablecloth.
Download my book review printables so that people can leave notes about why they loved the books they brought. I don’t know about you, but I always love when bookstore employees leave reviews of their favorites, so why not ask the same from our friends?
Buy something that can double as a party favor, or something your guests can take home. For Books and Brunch, I picked up a matched set of coffee mugs that match my theme, and I can send home with friends at the end of the day.
Single-serve food can be a great way to cater to guests with allergies; I have personal-sized quiches here, along with a simple arugula salad and some fresh butter croissants. You don’t need to offer tons of options, but it’s nice to have something available for everyone.
Look around the house for things that can be converted to party decor! An antique camera might not be the most obvious book-related option, but it’s something I collect, so it injects a little “me” into the party, and it’s an interesting piece to go on the table.
Customize things you already own! A few inches of a printed burlap ribbon take a couple of plain ol’ pillar candles from drab to fab. The burlap is simply held in place on the back by a bit of masking tape; easy peasy.
Crafty doesn’t have to mean complicated! It took me less than five minutes to put this flower wreath together. I had asked at my local thrift store if they had any damaged books, which they did, so I had several hundred pages of text to use, that would have otherwise been tossed in the dumpster. I used pages from the book in a number of places for the party.
I randomly cut circles, crumpled and then flattened them, and put a stick pin through them to make a flower for my plain wreath. (It’s held on with a pipe cleaner that’s twisted around the pin and the branches of the wreath)
I used cut out pages to cover up other things; for the quiche display, I put a piece of aluminum foil on top of the book, and then put the pages on top of that to cover the foil.
I ran the pages through my printer to apply letters to them, and then cut those out and attached them to a pre-made banner I picked up. (Just tape the pages to a full-size piece of paper, using low-tack masking tape, then peel it up carefullty!)
Edible decor is always a good idea: With a fall party, a basket over flowing with apples, pumpkins and other gourds, or candy… make it look like more than just a dish of food by adding a surprising detail, like the signage heart here:
We threw Max a Lego-themed birthday party back in April, and I’ll get around to sharing more details one of these days. For now, though, I wanted to share one of the fun crafty projects we had for the kids. We made plaster of Paris minifigs for them to decorate!
I happened up the minifig mold set on Amazon, and just knew I had to pick it up. I had no plans for what to DO with it, but I simply had to own it. And so I do. After some brainstorming with Jamie, we came up with the idea to use plaster of Paris to make the oversized figures for the kids to decorate.
The set of molds actually came with three different sizes of figures; regular minifig size (not shown) then the middle and big ones shown below.
A naked big minifig with regular LEGO one for scale.
Because we wanted to have one big one per party guest, we were aiming to make 15, and could only do one at a time. I mixed up the plaster 1/4 cup per batch, which filled the big one and the 4 middle ones, with a little left over. They had to sit and cure for about an hour, and then they could be taken out of the mold and set aside to continue drying.
Protip: Be careful when popping the small and medium guys out of the mold; their feet have a tendency to crumble away if you aren’t careful! I found popping the feet out first made a big difference in my success rate.
For the party, we supplied the naked minifigs, markers, glitter glue and washable paint for the kids to use.
I had actually hoped to just use markers; they’re so much neater than paint, and all that. Below, you’ll see the results of the marker tests. The plain white plaster figure, then one on which I colored with markers (just regular Crayola ones) and then the last one we hit with a little spray primer that Jamie had in the garage. While the colors still faded over a couple of weeks, the results are definitely better than the non-primered one.
Overall, I think they were a hit at the party, and I’m pretty sure we’ll make them again! I could see doing them up for holidays, to decorate packages, maybe even Christmas tree ornaments!
Heh. The short version. Thing number one, I'm tall. I've been told I should have a warning on my blog, so here it is! I am taller in real life than I appear on the internet.
Want to know more than this "short" version? Click here to read more about me and my family, and for links to some of my favorite posts.