Friday, October 30, 2015

Creamy Chicken & Bacon Alfredo



After a long, hot summer that has lasted well into autumn, it finally feels like fall around here. And with the change in weather comes a change in menu, moving away from steady grilling to heartier, kitchen-based meals.

If you're like me, you want something new that your family will enjoy without the obnoxious, "Ew, what is that?" exclamation from the kids. This Creamy Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo is exactly what you need to bring an exciting new dish to the table that feels familiar, but new.

Essentially this dish is fettuccine Alfredo, but with the delicious additions of perfectly cooked chicken, tender broccoli, and bacon. And it's incredible! My daughters both love this dish and it has been moved to our regular rotation.

INGREDIENTS
8 strips bacon
1 lb chicken breast, boneless and skinless
Olive oil
Paprika
Oregano
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 C. milk
2/3 C. heavy cream
1 C. Parmesan cheese
10 oz fettuccine
2 C. broccoli florets, cooked

PREPARATION

  1. Place strips of bacon in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in a 450 degree for 10 minutes. Flip each piece of bacon and bake for another five minutes. Remove, pat the bacon dry, then chop.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add broccoli florets. Boil for 8-10 minutes, or until broccoli is cooked through. Drain and set broccoli aside.
  3. Cook fettuccine according package directions.
  4. In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the chicken breast and season with salt, pepper, paprika and oregano.
  5. Cook the chicken breast for 4-5 minutes on each side, until each side gets a nice brown coating. Put the lid over the pan and lower heat to medium. Continue to cook until chicken is completely cooked through.
  6. Remove the chicken from the pan and cut into 1/4"-thick slices.
  7. In the same pan, add a little more olive oil and saute the minced garlic until fragrant. Add the milk and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until combined and cheese is melted into the sauce.
  8. Add the fettuccine, chicken, bacon and broccoli and stir to combine.


The most challenging part of this meal is managing the various parts. It takes a few pots and pans to get the broccoli, bacon, chicken and pasta all cooked without too much delay between, but following the preparation instructions in order should help. Even though it's not a quick-fix meal, it's worth the preparation when you get a bite of creamy pasta, chicken, broccoli and bacon.

Happy eating!
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Thursday, October 29, 2015

10 Last Minute Halloween Costumes

Halloween is in just a couple of days and if you don't have a costume yet, it is getting down to the wire. Never fear! These costumes are so easy you can pull it together in time for your Halloween party! 
 Rosie the Riveter by What I Wore
 Pineapple costume but Studio DIY
 DIY Silent Film Stars by Shrimp Salad Circus
 Minions by One Creative Housewife
 Star Wars Family by Say Yes
Price Is Right contestants as found on Tumblr.

Wind Up Doll from Clover and Dot.

Ms. Frizzle from the Twin Tested Blog

Bank Robber from The Twin Tested Blog
Flo from Progressive by Dwelling in Happiness.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Best Gifts for Someone on Bed Rest

I once had a friend who told me I was so lucky to be on bed rest with my pregnancy. Lucky? It was literally one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not only do you have to turn over control to everyone else in your life from everything like helping your children get dressed and pick up their rooms to dinner. The most frustrating part? The boredom. I have never been so bored in my life. I use to crave normal things like shopping for shoes with my daughter or even seeing a newer movie like Pitch Perfect 2 that isn't on Netflix. If you are looking to make a mom who is on bed rest's life a little easier here are some gift ideas that can make a hard time a little better.




VidAngel Credits: VidAngel is kind of like an online Redbox. You pay $1 for each movie, but their selection is fantastic.They have new releases like Divergent that aren't on Netflix. I also love that they have old relevant favorites, like a lot of Halloween movies right now. You better believe we will be watching Hocus Pocus before Halloween! Even now, that our little one is 18 months old, my husband and I still don't get to the theater that often. We are excited to start catching up on everything we have missed since I was on bedrest.

Online Shopping Gift Cards: I used to window shop using my computer all the time. It helped me feel more normal and when I could buy household products on Amazon, I felt like I was helping out too.

Adult Coloring Books: Have you checked out all of the amazing Adult Coloring Books that are on the market now? A coloring book and a set of colored pencils would make a fantastic gift that would keep mom occupied for awhile.
A couple hours of your time: One of the hardest things for me was turning over all cooking and laundry duties to my husband. He was already so busy and stressed and I felt like I kept piling it on. I could fold the laundry after it was washed and dried but not a ton else. If you have a couple hours to pop over and run a couple loads of laundry or wash the kitchen floor, I am sure they would really appreciate it.
Dinner: We ate a lot of take out. I couldn't stand on my feet long enough to cook much and my husband was really busy, so we ate out a lot. Double your favorite meal one night and bring over half. I had a friend bring a few meals that I could put in my freezer and then pull out one night. I absolutely LOVED those.
Games: I played a lot of games with my daughter during this time and it was a fun way for us to connect. Think of games that don't have a board or if they do have a board, don't have pieces that can slide all over the place. Some of our favorite games to play were Go Fish, Uno and paper games like Hang Man. We also played I Spy. A LOT, so a friend bought us one of those I Spy books, which was a blast.

Books: Whether you bring a giftcard for a electronic reader, let her borrow your favorite books or just pick up new books for her from the library, books are one of the best things you can bring someone who is one bed rest.

Healthy Snacks: It is so tempting to drown your sorrows in a bag of Oreos when you are on bed rest, but you need to keep strength up. Find out what her favorite fruits, veggies and protein bars are and help her load up on those.

Being on bed rest is really tough, but little things like these can make it so much better. Have you every bought a gift for a friend on bed rest before?
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Tomato Hamburger Macaroni Soup

Cold weather is finally upon us. Tis the season of boots, scarves and my absolute favorite...soups. We make soups of all kind during the winter from the simple to the complex. This Tomato Hamburger Macaroni Soup is easy to make and I love that the noddles soak up all of the flavor.

You will need:

  • 1 lb of hamburger
  • 2 T. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 a onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 c. beef broth 
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes 
  • salt 
  • pepper 
  • 1 lb of elbows, cooked according to package directions 

Brown the hamburger in a pan with salt and pepper. Drain the pan and then in the same pan cook the onions, celery and carrots with the olive oil until soft. In a large pot, stir together the crushed tomatoes and the beef broth. Add the softened vegetables and the elbows and cook until steaming hot, stirring every few minutes 

Serve with French bread or rolls. 

What is your favorite winter soup? 

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Disney Gallery Wall

We are Disney fanatics in our house. Earlier this year we took our girls to Disneyland and absolutely had the time of our lives. They ask if we can go back almost every day. It is easily our favorite vacation we have ever had the opportunity to take.

When we came back from Disney, we had all of these pictures and pieces of memorabilia that I absolutely loved and didn't just want to toss in a scrapbook somewhere, so we created this fun Disney wall. 
 The best part of this wall is that you can make it as affordable as you want. The drawings from the Animator's Academy in California Adventure are free and they say Disney's California Adventure on them. We took our kids to the Animator's Academy and had each of us follow the instructions and draw the same Disney Character. In our case, it was the Cheshire Cat but they draw lots of different characters throughout the day, you can even ask for the schedule and pick the character you most want to draw. I bought cheap metal frames for these drawings and hung one from each family member on the wall.
 My husband and I had our painting done on the pier in California Adventure. It was so much fun and one of my favorite pieces of memorabilia. If you don't have a painting or sketch to hang, you can always print another photo from your trip.  In the center of the gallery wall is a print of Stitch that my husband bought for me at the art studio in California Adventure. We have a special fondness for Stitch in our house, so he is the perfect way to complete the wall. You could always hang another photo from your trip here as well.
 The top center piece is all of our Disney Silhouettes from over the years. These Silhouettes are easily one of Disney's most fun and most affordable souvenirs. A Disney Artist cuts your Silhouette out of black paper and then glues it to a piece of Disneyland paper. It costs about $10 a person and you get two. You can also choose to add your favorite Disney character to the Silhouette as well. You can read more about this in my Best Free or Cheap Disneyland Souvenirs post. The silhouette of my husband and I is from our honeymoon, the one of our oldest daughter is from the trip we took almost 7 years ago and the one of our youngest daughter is from this most recent trip.

The top right picture is our family picture with Mickey Mouse. It isn't necessarily my favorite photo from the trip, but how could I not use the picture with the Mouse himself?
This gallery wall hung in our bedroom in our old house and now hangs in our library. I makes me smile every time I see it. It is full of good memories and Disney happiness. 

Do you have any gallery walls in your house? 
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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Helping Your Child Succeed in School

This post has been sponsored by Sleep Number.


This is about the time of year where my daughter has her first parent teacher conference. Even though my daughter is an excellent student, I find myself wondering what I can do as a parent to really help her succeed in school. These are the tips I have found most helpful in maximizing her attention span and school performance.


A homework station: I don't know about you, but homework still isn't my favorite thing and now it is my kids and not mine. Having everything that we need right in one place makes homework time as stress free as possible. We try to keep crayons, markers, glue sticks, scissors and mostly importantly pencils and erasers in an easily accessible place. Last year I made this lazy Susan organizer and it has worked great for us. Keep everything ready to go. I buy a bunch of glue sticks and crayons when they are cheap at the beginning of the school year and then just replace them as necessary.



A homework routine: Do you do homework right as the kids come home from school? Do you have a snack first? Try to get them into the habit of doing the same things every day so they know what is expected. I also try to occupy younger siblings to keep homework time quiet and less stressful.


Good food: We tried the whole school lunch thing and realized my daughter just wasn't eating it. Kids need good fuel for a long day at school so now I pack a lunch I know she will eat. Do what works best for your kid whether that is packing lunch every day or buying it, picking the right one will keep your kid functioning their best.

Physical Activity: Researchers in Rome found that when a child exercised right before they took a test, their scores improved by an average of 10%. A good way to use this study to help your child is to take stretch breaks during studying. Stop and have your child do 10 jumping jacks in between problems. You can also enroll them in sports. Anything that gets them moving is good for their school work.

Establish a bedtime routine and help your child wind down. We used to put my daughter to bed plenty early enough each night, but somehow she would wake up still tired. We tried putting her to bed earlier with no success. We realized that she was staying up for hours after we had put her to be reading. While we were happy she was reading, she just wasn't ready for school the next day, so we worked hard on establishing a good bed routine to help her in the morning.

  • Set them up to be ready for bed. I try really hard not to let me daughter nap at all when she gets home. It is just setting her up to be up late.
  • Do the same things over and over. For us it is pajama, teeth brushed, story and bed. She knows what comes next so it helps her wind down. We also play the same CD of lullabies every night. I never change it. Having the same music helps signal to her that it is time for me.
  • Set up the right environment for them to be able to sleep. My daughter for years slept on an old mattress that we got from my in-laws. It never occurred to me that her mattress might be part of the problem until one night I ended up falling asleep in her bed and MAN was I sore in the morning. When I asked her about her mattress she told me it always poked her. How could I expect her to have a good night sleep on something that I wouldn't have one on? 


We have been looking at a SleepIQ Kids bed. It allows them to change the comfort settings as they grow and they have a fantastic head tilt feature that is good for reading in bed for helping clear a stuffy head. The bed also alerts you if you kid is out of bed or restless. This is the number 1 feature I wish I had years ago. It could have saved us months of a sleepy student if I had realized she wasn't actually going to bed.



My favorite part of this best is the monster detector. I love that they are addressing a issue that almost all kids have. Anything that helps my child sleep better, makes everyone's life better.


What do you do to help your kids succeed in school?
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BBQ Dr. Pepper Chicken


This dish was one of my husband's favorites growing up. It is one of my easy go to meals. It comes together in less than a half and hour and it is full of delicious flavor. I mean anything that has Dr. Pepper in it has to be delicious, right?

You will need: 


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 TBS of Butter
  • 1 bottle of BBQ sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's)
  • 1/4 can of Dr. Pepper


Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the chicken to the butter and lightly brown the chicken on all sides. Pour in the entire bottle of BBQ sauce, coating the chicken evenly. Add the Dr. Pepper to the sauce and cover. Cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until you chicken is cooked through.

One of our favorite things to serve with this chicken is crispy butter potatoes. They are one of my favorite things, sometimes late at night I just cook some up for a snack. Yum!


You will need: 

  • 2 Cans of sliced white potatoes, drained
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste

Melt the butter in a large pan until frothy. Add the potatoes. Stir in all of the spices, adding more or less to your personal tastes. Keep over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the potatoes start to fall apart around the edges, about five minutes. I like to cook them until they are a little crispy.

What is one of your favorite childhood meals?
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Pepperoni Lasagna


I love lasagna. In all its forms. We I like traditional lasagna, I like it made with zucchini anyway it comes, I am there. Cheese, sauce and noodles? What gets better than that? Since one of my other favorite foods is pizza, why not combine the two for an amazing super lasagna? This pepperoni lasagna is so easy to make and brings nice spice and flavor to your traditional dish.

You will need: 




Cook the noodles according to package direction. Brown the sausage, adding the Italian seasoning while you are browning. Add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of your pan.
Drain the noodles and add half of them on top of the sauce.
Add a layer of pepperoni.
Then add a generous layer of cheese.
Top the cheese with all of the sausage. Then more sauce, the rest of the noodles, another layer of pepperoni, the rest of the sauce and another generous helping of cheese.
Bake the pepperoni lasagna in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce bubbly.

We eat Bertolli in a lot of our dishes because it is delicious, but also because of their initiatives to help with childhood hunger. In October for each photo shared with the hashtag #MyTuscanTable, Bertolli® will make a $1 donation to help end childhood hunger in America through a partnership with No Kid Hungry. With each dollar, No Kid Hungry will provide 10 healthy meals to kids in need, up to a half a million meals. No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger in America by ensuring kids have the healthy food they need, every day. The Bertolli® brand is proud to lend its passion for uniting people over food to help connect kids struggling with hunger to the nutritious meals they need to grow and thrive. Now that is something to celebrate!

What kinds of lasagna have you tried?
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Friday, October 16, 2015

Pumpkin Patch Snack Pack®


This post is sponsored by Snack Pack®.

One of my daughter's favorite treats in her lunch box has been the Back to School Snack Pack®. Since we are more than a month into school, I wanted to change up the theme of her lunchtime treat. Halloween is my daughter's all-time favorite holiday. We spend a month putting together costumes and decorating our house. This year, we happen to be moving right before Halloween, so we haven't been able to decorate like we normally do. To make up for it, we created this extra-special Snack Pack® for her lunch box. It was easy to make and she loved helping!

You will need: 


  • Chocolate cookies 
  • Chocolate Snack Pack®
  • Green Sour Straws
  • Pretzels 
  • Orange chocolate
  • Halloween scrapbook paper
  • Tape
  • Wax paper


Put the orange chocolate in a bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds and then stir. Repeat, microwaving for 30 seconds, and stir until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Dip the pretzels in the chocolate and then flip over to get the pretzel completely covered. Place the pretzel on wax paper. While the chocolate is still drying, pinch off a piece of sour straw and add it to the pretzel. This will serve as the pumpkin's stem.


Place a couple chocolate cookies in a plastic bag. You can use chocolate cookies with cream, just scrape the cream off before you put the cookies in the bag. Smash the cookies until they look like dirt, and sprinkle the crumbs on top of your Snack Pack®. If you desire, wrap a small piece of Halloween scrapbook paper around the Snack Pack® and secure it with tape.


Add the chocolate pumpkins to the dirt for a delicious treat! Usually when I send this treat to school, I put the Snack Pack® and the toppings in her lunch separately and let her have fun creating the treat herself! 



This Halloween take a moment to slow down and enjoy a tasty and fun treat with the kids. Snack Pack comes a variety of flavors and offers endless mix-in opportunities the kids can help prepare. Each serving of Snack Pack is fortified with as much calcium as an 8-oz glass of milk,* so you can feel good about serving your kids Snack Pack. For mix-in inspiration, visit Snack Pack on Pinterest(pinterest.com/snackpack) and Facebook (facebook.com/SnackPackPudding). 

** All Snack Pack products contain 30% DV calcium, with the exception of Bakery Shop Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Pudding, and Snack Pack Gels.


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