weekend link love: february 21, 2014

link love

Is anybody else kind of relieved that it’s finally the weekend? It’s been a long week here with the weather generally ruining every plan I tried to make – which means another long week inside. Silver lining is that I have more great links to share with you guys this week.

Enjoy these links while we wait impatiently for Spring:

Your welcome.

momma loves: hershey chocolate hazelnut spread

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I don’t normally request products for review, but when I saw that Hershey’s was coming out with a line of chocolate spreads – I’ll admit that I pounced on the opportunity to try a bottle through a Crowd Tap sample share opportunity.

Our family loves a good chocolate hazelnut spread – we’ve been Nutella fans for years – so I was excited to put this new spread to the test.

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BB inspected the jar carefully and concluded that this is GOOD STUFF. No high fructose corn syrup and the same nutritional information you’d be likely to find on peanut butter or other chocolate spreads on the market. With her seal of approval, I confidently moved on to the taste test.

First, breakfast:

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We tried the hazelnut spread on an english muffin. I like to use two different toppings on English muffins, as I tend to get bored quickly apparently. I did a basic grape jelly on one half and the Hershey’s Hazelnut spread on the other. Delicious – and the flavor combination was perfection. The spread is sweet but not too sweet – I was pleased to see that the ingredients all played nicely together.

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Of course the infamous PB&C sandwich was a mandatory – my daughter LOVES these sandwiches for lunch and though I try to give them sparingly, I’ll admit that they are a regular occurrence in our home. This sandwich definitely passed muster with the little one who happily gobbled it up.

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My handsome husband turned me onto the genius idea of dipping animal crackers in the chocolate spread as a mid-day or after dinner snack. We have this giant container of animal crackers from Costco that will seemingly never be emptied, but I did my part. This is a great snack – it’s similar to spreading it on graham crackers, but you don’t need a spoon or knife.

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On a similarly salty note, the chocolate hazelnut spread also pairs nicely with peanut butter filled pretzels – for all the same reasons that it tastes great in a peanut butter sandwich really. This is a nice midday snack that is equally as easy and hassle free as the animal cracker idea but with a little extra protein to take you further towards your next meal.

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And of course – the classic – strawberries dipped in chocolate. This kind of had to happen and it was just as amazing as you’d imagine. You could also dip banana slices or maybe grapes as well. The possibilities are endless!

What do you use chocolate spreads for? Any good recipe ideas? Feel free to send any suggestions my way!

What I’m Into (November)

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer a bit late (but better late than never, right?) to share the things I’ve been into for the past month.

what I’m reading

Right now I’m reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. My book club is discussing it next week (ack!) and the odds of me finishing on time are a bit iffy but I’m going to try. This book is intense and complicated and fantastic and occasionally awful, but not in a literary way so much as a “how many times are we going to torture, kill and humiliate this person?” kind of way.

Imagine if you could go back and relive your life over and over again – what things would you change and do differently? This is sort of the premise of the book and in the beginning the main character seems to just keep on dying every ten minutes in awful ways that made my mother heart hurt. But gradually she lives longer and longer and it oscillates between feeling like a story about all the ways you can die / be hurt / suffer and feeling like a story about all the ways we can survive / overcome / be better. It’s hopeful and despondent all at the same time. So it’s fascinating and I’m enjoying it as much as you can enjoy that kind of book, but I’m taking for freaking ever to finish it.

Some nights I’m just too spent from my own realities to deal with such a heavy book and on those nights I’ve been reading As You Do by Richard Hammond (of Top Gear fame) instead. This book reads as though Hammond is actually standing next to you talking. His writing style is VERY similar to his talking style which I suppose could be a good thing or a bad thing but I consider it a good thing. I’m not super far into the book as I’ve been trying to be more diligent about getting through the book club pick but I am really enjoying this one so far. It’s a collection of stories from his adventures on Top Gear and other ventures. I actually bought this book for my husband and he LOVED it so much that I felt inclined to read it myself. So far so good…

what I’m watching (tv)

Anyone else still going a little bit spastic inside over the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode? My husband and I watched it that night and kept squealing like fan girls and theorizing little bits and pieces to death (Emergency Awesome has some fun easter egg /hidden references from the episode) . The next afternoon we watched it with the kids (we always give the new episodes a trial run before letting the kids watch, just to be on the safe side) and squealed all over again. I’m both anxiously looking forward to the Christmas special and apprehensively dreading the end of the 11th’s tenure. I hope Peter Capaldi is amazing, I’m sure I’ll get used to him eventually as I did the others.

Can you believe the contestants that have been eliminated on X-Factor so far these past couple weeks? The results have been surreal to me and I’m not sure if it’s because I am just not the same target audience as the people that are voting or what, but I mourned the loss of another Top Fave last week. ::sniff:: I doubt that my vote would have made much of a difference but I do sometimes wish that people who DVR and watch the show later were given a chance to vote. Do you think the results would have been different if everyone who watches could vote and not just the people who watch it live?

what I’m watching (movies)

We took the kids to see Frozen the day after Thanksgiving (otherwise known as stab each other for video games day) and I think the whole family fell in love. I was jonsing for a good “Princess Movie” and this totally hit the spot. BB of course now wants Anna and Elsa everything and I can’t say I’m bothered by this very much. We may have to buy the DVD when it comes out and possibly the sound track because I cannot stop singing, “Do you want to build a snowman?” Such a great movie.

in my kitchen

This year for Thanksgiving I was basically the Queen of Desserts. I made:

My MIL’s famous rum cake and a delicious apple pie (this recipe’s crust was the first pie crust I’ve ever made and I think I’m going to go ahead and officially swear by it) as well as a peanut butter dip which was basically a peanut butter pie (I loosely followed this recipe) minus the crust with a bunch of sliced apples to dip in it (though I confess my favorite thing to dip in it is a spoon!) and a sweet potato casserole (this recipe has become a staple for me, this was my third year using it and I can’t imagine straying from it now).

The peanut butter pie dip that I made ended up being so far from the original that I feel the need to share what I actually made and pretend that I can call it a “recipe”

Jen’s Deviously Good Peanut Butter Pie Dip

  • 1 pint (16 oz) of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • most of a 16 oz container of creamy peanut butter, we’ll say 12-14 oz. (I just used what was left of my barely touched container, you could probably use a full 16 oz container or less if necessary).
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Beat a pint of heavy whipping cream in your mixer until it’s thickened enough – I don’t think I ever got mine truly “whipped cream”ish but I was starting to get bored so after awhile I moved on to the rest of the recipe.
  2. Beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, butter and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Fold in the “whipped cream”. Gently spoon into a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to eat. If you can control yourself. Yield: 8-10 servings.

On a non-recipe note, can I mention again how obsessed I am with the orange clove scented counter top spray from Mrs. Meyers? I may have snagged a bottle of the orange clover dish soap and a scented candle at Target today…

stuff I loved online

the entire ‘Doctor Who’ history in one amazing tapestry (awesome)

after a year of parenting, one thing is certain (sweet)

Moms: OK is good enough (amen)

So what have you been into lately?

What I’m Into (October 2013)

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer today to share What I’m Into this month.

what I’m reading

Right now I’m reading Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth, the third book in the series. I have been obsessively hooked on this dystopian YA novel since the first book but I have to say, so far this book isn’t quite holding up and I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks so. The book is told from the main character, Tris’s point of view as well as Four’s POV but their “voices” are not super different which means that I frequently forget which one is talking until they mention the other, which is disrupting to say the least.

I’ve been downloading oodles of books onto my kindle lately that I’m eager to read soon, which means that I’m not sure when I’ll get to all those pretty books photographed above that are sitting on my nightstand. I also just won copies of The Good Wife and The Good Daughter by Jane Porter which are currently sitting right next to me being all pretty and tempting. I’m kind of in book overload right now and planning to WRITE a book next month (i.e. tomorrow) which may cut down on my reading time even more. Hold me.

what I’m watching

Anyone else watching Reign? I am seriously hooked on that show. I’m not sure how historically accurate it is but the cast is terrific and I frequently find myself wondering if it’s Thursday yet.
Another Thursday fave is Project Runway – it’s an All Star season right now and I’m hoping it will be slightly less freakishly dramatic than the season that just ended. Anyone else still reeling from all of that?
Our DVR is also in a state of seriously begging for mercy – I think it might be time to start cutting down on shows but I really don’t know where I want to begin with that task. I suppose there are worse problems to have.
Also, major shout out to Emma Approved. If you were hooked on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (or even if you weren’t), you’ll want to check out this web show based off Austen’s Emma. I’m really enjoying it so far.

in my kitchen

My dishwasher is broken. My husband already knows the problem and can fix it (mildly disappointed about that lol) but the part he needs won’t be coming until tomorrow which means I’ve been looking for easy meals with a minimum of dishes. Hello frozen pizza!

Before that happened though, we’d been hooked on the awesome pre-prepped things at the Hy-Vee meat counter. Anyone else discovered their cowgirl chicken? I love to make it when we have company over because it feels like showing off even though all I did was put the pre-dressed chicken breasts on a frying pan and then turned them over halfway through cooking. Hy-Vee makes me feel like I know what I’m doing without making me know what I’m doing. Love that!

I did bake a really delicious bourbon apple pie from scratch this month, using a recipe from A Beautiful Mess and it was amazingly delicious. It was also my first time making pie crust from scratch and I was really thrilled with how it came out and also how easy it was to make. If you are a pie crust beginner like me, I really recommend their recipe.

pinning

How adorable are these princess dress up aprons from Giggleberry Creations? I went to the fabric store over the weekend so I can make BB some Cinderella, Rapunzel and Tiana aprons. And by, me, I mean my husband.

I want to make this cinnamon swirl coffee bread with chocolate chips immediately.

Also: brown sugar & garlic slow cooker chicken. Seriously.

What are you into lately?

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

Recipe: Parmesan and Montamore Scrambled Eggs

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Sometimes I eat breakfast for lunch. Around noon my stomach starts to wake up and thinks about all of the adventurous breakfast dishes I could have made when I was too busy saying “Ermagurd, I’m tireddddddd… Where’s my coffeeeeee????” and end up drinking a smoothie and calling it a day. So it’s kind of like a do over breakfast in the afternoon. Some people probably call this brunch. I call it awesome.

I had a craving this afternoon for one of my favorite egg dishes – do you remember the crazy scrambled eggs with ricotta, parmesan and creamed corn recipe that I shared with you last year? I’m still making this recipe regularly, using egg beaters or egg whites instead of eggs because I’m too lazy to deal with cracking eggs or whisking them it’s healthier.

But I was dismayed to find that my ricotta cheese had gone bad (gross) and had to scramble (pun intended) to find a substitute. I didn’t have anything similarly creamy on hand, but I did have a package of Sartori Montamore cheese – it’s kind of like a sharp feta cheese that reminds me of a good parmesan or sharp cheddar in flavor but crumbles like feta. It boasts a creamy, fruity finish on the label and I’ve been just eating it straight out of the package as a midnight snack up until now but keep meaning to use it while cooking. So perfect, right?

I crumbled a good heaping of the montamore into my egg and corn mixture in lieu of ricotta and hoped for the best.

The result was fantastic.

The eggs weren’t lacking in any way by the absence of the ricotta’s creaminess and the montamore gives the dish a nice sharpness. And I know it probably sounds really weird to put creamed corn in scrambled eggs, but trust me, it’s delicious. It really gives the dish a great texture and you are sneaking in a vegetable that isn’t overpowering or overly healthy tasting. The parmesan cheese gives the whole thing a slight grittiness that I’ve found I miss whenever I skip it, so I never skip it. I repeat: Don’t skip the parmesan.

Parmesan and Montamore Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 T butter or cooking spray (or a nonstick pan)
  • 2 eggs whisked or about 1/3 cup of egg beaters
  • 2 T canned creamed corn
  • 1-2 T parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1-2 T montamore cheese or some equivalent thereof

Directions

  1. Heat your pan, add some butter or spray or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Or don’t. Whatever.
  2. Add the eggs or beaters and then the canned creamed corn. Stir it around a bit until the eggs are starting to cook through, then stir in the montamore cheese and lastly the parmesan.
  3. Serve with toast or whatever your egg pairing preference is.

I like to play with this recipe a lot, grating in whatever fun cheese we have on hand, and it always seems to come out great. Even better, you don’t need to be strict in your measurements and it doesn’t require a lot of effort. The instructions I’ve given are just the steps I take to put this together but it’s a very forgiving recipe so if you want to add in the cheeses earlier, I don’t think it will matter.

Lazy breakfast for the win!

Yum Alert: Pineapple Carrot Muffins with Walnuts and Raisins

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I am kind of terrible at eating breakfast. The complete opposite of a morning person, when it comes to the most important meal of the day – I want it fast and easy. My waist line would also like it to be healthy and filling. I do a lot of protein / veggie smoothies lately because I can just uncap, drink and go but sometimes you want something a little more on the fun and indulgent side!

A friend shared this recipe from pillsbury.com for pineapple carrot muffins made with raisins and walnuts and using half all purpose flour and half wheat flour. Scanning the ingredients list, I was pleased to see it used ingredients I mostly already had on hand. While grocery shopping this morning I added some chopped walnuts and a can of crushed pineapple to my cart and I was good to go!

Making the muffins was a breeze. I had a bag of carrots from our local CSA that I ran through a food processor to shred – making way more than I needed so I might have to make the recipe again soon! The recipe calls for 1 cup of shredded carrots. This is probably the most labor intensive part of the process and you could totally cheat and buy pre-shredded carrots but it only took me a couple minutes to shred mine and I could feel good about using straight from the farm produce!

When my son came home from school I gave one to each of the kids to test out and they were gone seemingly within seconds. They both loved them and trust me, they are a tough crowd! I had one myself and I have to agree with them. It was sweet without being too sweet and the texture was perfectly moist with a nice crunch from the walnuts. The pineapple gives it a nice, fresh citrus flavor without being over powering and the half wheat flour will make the muffin more filling without tasting like “health food”.

This is a great versatile recipe – you could swap in different nuts or dried fruits to change up the flavor profile and maybe even play with what canned fruit you use. And you can eat it guilt free pretty much any time of the day. It’s perfect for a fast breakfast or a healthy afternoon snack for the kids – or you can “sneak” one at night and call it a super sensible dessert! The recipe makes about 16 muffins and each muffin has only 200 calories. Not bad!

Check out the recipe at pillsbury.com!

Things Loved Recently. July 29, 2013

the selectionI read 3 books in less than a week. The Selection books are my new drug. The last book doesn’t come out until like spring 2014 which means I now have book-junkie itch. I’m trying to ignore it and read The Great Gatsby – the first few paragraphs were almost annoyingly descriptive but it got a bit better. I finished the first chapter and have not completely given up on it, so there you go.

We made very tipsy bread pudding this weekend, mostly following Ree’s recipe but adding extra alcohol and we forgot to add pecans. Irish Cream and vanilla extract are sort of the same thing, right?

decoy brideWe watched this rom/com called The Decoy Bride starring David Tennant AKA The Doctor and Kelly Macdonald AKA Merida from Brave, bt-dubs. I really loved it, and even better, so did Dan. A romantic comedy that both wife and husband can enjoy is sometimes rare, so I feel the need to give it a Big Mention. It takes place on the remote Scottish island of Hegg and the cast is just brilliant. It’s funny and it made me cry and oh gosh, you must see it!

We’re now partway into Season Four of 30 Rock. I know, I am seriously behind the times with this one but I am loving the show SO much – Last summer Dan and I watched all the seasons of the reboot of Doctor Who (we’ve also watched about half of the classic series available on Netflix). This summer we are watching 30 Rock. I recommend both shows highly!

I made homemade French Bread Pizzas this weekend using the recipe linked from Joy the Baker – her suggestions were fantastic and I had a lot of fun coming up with pizza combos. We made a couple pepperoni pizzas, a bbq chicken with mushrooms and garlic and an awesome veggie pizza with diced tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, garlic and fresh basil. All came out fantastic.

What things are you loving lately?

Yum Alert: Lemon Ricotta Waffles w/ poppy seeds

Lemon Ricotta Waffles with poppy seeds

This bears repeating. Lemon ricotta waffles with poppy seeds.

The best waffles I’ve ever made, according to my handsome husband. I’m inclined to agree.

I’m not the mastermind behind these delicious waffles, but Joy and I do have the same waffle maker so clearly great minds think alike and all that. I have been striking out a bit with waffles lately, trying to take the easy way out with pre-made mixes (why bother when homemade is sooo good and really quite easy?). Actually in general it seems like the kitchen and I have been disagreeing a lot lately. Lots of band-aids and disappointed looking children and husband-folk.

While I can’t say that I wasn’t injured during the making of these waffles (bloody knuckles and lemon zest, anyone?), I can say that the injury was totally worth it and we WILL be making these again. And again. And again.

Definitely try this recipe – and zest your lemons carefully!

Recipe: Quick & Easy Brownies & Chocolate Mousse

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This year I decided to deviate from my normal 4th of July dessert (mini no bake cheesecakes) and try something new. I’d read this recipe for a Simple Chocolate Mousse @ Something Swanky that can be prepared in 5 minutes and I thought the 4th of July would be the perfect time to try it out. I had a box of instant chocolate pudding in the cupboard so all I needed was a tub of cool whip and 5 minutes to spare.

Thursday afternoon I prepared the mousse, following Ashton’s advice on her blog. It was super easy to put together and, like Ashton, I was dreaming of all the combination possibilities immediately. I will definitely be using this versatile recipe again!

As the evening wore on, I started thinking about that delicious chocolate mousse and how to make it even more decadent. I flipped through my cupboards and found a box of No Pudge Fudge brownie mix which only needs yogurt to mix and bake. I scanned the box and noticed they also had microwave instructions – like those cake in a mug recipes! This was perfect because I didn’t have enough yogurt to prepare the whole box.

Following their instructions, roughly, I put in about one tablespoon of yogurt for every two tablespoons of brownie mix – but you’ll want to add more or less yogurt to get the consistency just right (I was using Greek blueberry yogurt because it’s what I had on hand – from my experience, any yogurt goes delicious with these brownies). All told the recipe looked something like this:

For each mug you are baking add:

  • 6 tablespoons of No Pudge Fudge brownie mix
  • 4 tablespoons of greek yogurt

Cooking Directions:

  1. Bake in microwave on high for  one minute, as recommended by the box. Check for doneness.
  2. Continued to bake in microwave for 20 additional seconds each until the brownie is done and a toothpick can come out cleanly. Mine took a little over 2 minutes to bake.

Another five minutes later and I was adding my prepared mousse on top of my brownies and then topped the whole thing with a little whipped cream and fresh berries for good measure.

The result? Was sinfully delicious and actually not a ton of calories all told. And it only took me about ten minutes total to put the whole thing together! I think this recipe could easily be converted  and played around with – I bet you could try the mousse with a homemade pudding, too, and any cake or brownie recipe would be a prefect pairing (Ashton @ Simply Swanky had a lot of ideas, too).

What’s your favorite So Easy It Should Be Impossible Recipe?

Weekend Link Love: July 5, 2013

linklove

I hope all my American readers had a great 4th of July yesterday. We’ve been celebrating since Tuesday with fireworks and lots of grilling and watching old Die Hard movies (what better way to celebrate, right?).

If you need some fun and / or inspiring things to read while you wait for the weekend to officially arrive, here are some great things I’ve been reading online this week:

  • I was a manic pixie dream girl by Laurie Penny @ New Statesman – the first half of this article is especially good. I don’t entirely agree with the article (I think Doctor Who’s recent companions have been pretty awesome personally) but I did find it interesting.
  • Check out these amazing Disney paper dolls by Cor104 @ Deviant Art – I definitely want to print some of these for my daughter!
  • I will never buy taco seasoning again thanks to Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19 – I’ve tried a couple homemade taco seasonings and this one is by far the best.
  • The Decline and Fall of the English Major @ The New York Times has been all over the blogosphere lately. I also really enjoyed Alison’s post In Defense of English Majors @ Hardcovers and Heroines.
  • If you are running out of ideas for cheap fun things to do with the kids this summer, make sure you check out Made by Joel’s archives of printable toys. Perhaps a paper circus or Oscillating Bird Science Toy?
  • Normally if I shared a Mommy Shorts post with you guys, it would be side splitting funny but today I want to share her Secret to Enjoying Parenthood. It’s more of a grab a hanky and nod in agreement type post and one of my favorite things I read this week.
  • Still bored? I have been weirdly obsessed with this Facebook game: Lyroke – guess the lyrics to popular (or not so popular) songs. You can compete against  friends or play by yourself.