Monday, October 31, 2011

Holiday Entertaining: Start Planning Now with This Guide

Are you planning on entertaining this holiday season? Are you tired of trying to live up to all of the gorgeous pictures and ideas in those magazines at the checkout stands, and failing? Because, really, no one can recreate those tables and that home decor, except, of course, Martha herself.

If you're looking for ideas on how to beautifully decorate your home, cook a feast fit for a king, get the kids and the rest of the family involved all without losing your sanity and still keeping money in the bank, this guide is for you.

Erin Chase, also known as the $5 Dinner Mom, has created the perfect guide to thriving, not just surviving, this holiday season: The Holiday Entertaining Guide.

The guide includes:
  • How to budget for your holiday meal
  • What you must include and what you can leave out
  • Getting the most value from your coupons
  • A plan for cooking everything all in one oven
  • How to turn the leftovers into more great meals
And best of all, with this guide you get 30 simple recipes. Now that's a deal.

The Holiday Entertaining Guide is available now in eBook format, but it's also available for your Kindle, Nook, and coming soon to your iPad and Kindle Fire. Get it now!

You'll also receive the following bonuses:
  • FREE Holiday Planners
  • FREE Holiday Treats - an additional 10 recipes for yummy holiday sweets!
Special Offer!
Get The Holiday Entertaining Guide now for 50% Off! Enter the coupon code THANKS to receive The Holiday Entertaining Guide, free printable planners, and free additional 10 treat recipes for just $1.99. Go get it!

To give you a little taste of what's included in the guide, here's a sample recipe:

Carmelized Onion and Blue Cheese Bruschetta

Two powerful and delicious flavors collide over toasted bread slices.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 white onions, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
16 slices baguette bread, thinly sliced
½ cup blue cheese crumbles


“Balsam-melize the onions” – In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, then stir in the chopped onions, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Let cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often. (The onions can be cooked up to 2 days ahead of time and stored in the freezer until ready to assemble and broil.)

Meanwhile, slice the baguette bread, place on a baking sheet and run under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes to toast the pieces some. Then add the “balsam-melized” onions and a few crumbles of blue cheese to each bread slice. Run under the broiler again for 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese softens.

Serve Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Bruschetta.

Makes 16 appetizers.
Doesn't this make you want more? Go here to get your Holiday Entertaining Guide now!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Freezer Cooking Friday: Menu Plan 10/29

I know I skipped Freezer Cooking Friday for the last two weeks, but it’s back! It’s time for another round of cooking ahead and getting my freezer stocked up again. I’ll be heading to Sam’s Club on Saturday morning bright and early (if 10am qualifies as bright and early) to pick up some staples and meat. I’ll be buying one 5 pound pack of ground beef, and one large tray of chicken breasts. Then Saturday or Sunday afternoon – most likely during naptime – I’ll be whipping up some dinners to have later in the week.

Here’s the plan:

Ground beef:
Chicken Breasts:

So, that's the plan. Be sure to check back next week to see what I actually finished and have in the freezer! I'll also include reviews of any new recipes that we tried. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in my Freezer Cooking Friday series!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recipe: Easy Beef Enchiladas

I don't even know how I started making this recipe, but I whipped it up one time for my parents back in my single days, and it's been a hit in my family ever since. My kids even love these enchiladas, and that's saying a lot right there. The recipe has been adapted a little bit over the years here and there - sometimes rice and/or refried beans will be added - but for the most part it stays pretty basic. I hope you love it as much as we do.

Shannon's Easy Beef Enchiladas
Photos Coming Soon!

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 packet Taco Seasoning
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pack flour tortillas, small or medium, whichever you prefer - base it on your pan size
  • 2 cups chredded cheddar cheese (I prefer Sharp)
  • 2-3 small cans or 1 large can Old El Paso Red Enchilada Sauce (my fave) - amount depends on how saucy you like your enchiladas
Brown ground beef with onion until cooked through. Mix in taco seasoning according to instructions on packet. Remove from heat.

Pour about 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in bottom of greased baking dish and spread around. I usually use a 9x13 glass dish.

Place one tortilla on a plate, and spread about a teaspoon of sauce around entire tortilla. Scoop meat and onion mixture on tortilla, then sprinkle with cheese. Roll, and place seam down in pan.

Continue with the rest of tortillas until you either run out of meat or space in the pan.

Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, making sure all of them are covered. I also like to make sure the sauce gets down in between the enchiladas - if they're packed tightly in the pan, I just scooch (technical term) them aside a bit as I pour the sauce.

If you're freezing the enchiladas to cook later, STOP HERE. Cover the pan in foil, then wrap in foil again. If you're using a smaller pan, like an 8x8 foil pan, cover in foil, then slip into a freezer bag. Make sure you mark the package somehow that's Enchiladas. No one likes a mystery pack in the freezer! When you're ready to bake the enchiladas, thaw, remove foil, then continue the steps below.

Top entire dish with shredded cheese according to your taste. We love cheese in this house, so I usually use a full 2 cups on the top.

Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes or until it's nice and bubbly and the cheese on top is melted. Tip: If you like crispy, or slightly burnt cheese, leave them in a bit longer. We happily discovered this one time when using an unfamiliar oven timer.

Dig in and enjoy!

The great thing about this recipe is that it's easy to adapt to your tastes. The measurements aren't exact; use as much or as little sauce and cheese as you like. Add more vegetables, use chicken or turkey instead of ground beef if you like.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Crockpot Salsa Chicken

If you're a crockpot nut like me, you're going to love this. The only thing better than throwing something in the crockpot in the morning to be ready that evening is just dumping the premixed ingredients out of a freezer bag into the crockpot. No fuss, no gathering of ingredients, just dump it, turn on the crockpot (a very important step), then go!

If you've been paying attention, I've started a series called Freezer Cooking Fridays right here on this blog. This series stemmed from my newfound love of Freezer Cooking, so I've been trying to combine Freezer Cooking and Crockpot Cooking. The results have been great so far! It's simple: take your favorite Crockpot recipe, gather ingredients, do any prep work needed, put everything in a freezer bag, and pop it into the freezer. Then when that busy morning comes along, toss everything from the freezer bag into the crockpot, set it, and you're done! You don't even have to thaw it out, which works out great for me.

So, are you ready to try it for yourself? Here's a perfect recipe to get you started with Crockpot Freezer Cooking...

Crockpot Salsa Chicken - Freezer Style
photos coming soon!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 jar of salsa or picante sauce (regular size jar)
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can of corn, drained, or about 2 cups of frozen corn
Combine ingredients in freezer bag, place in freezer. Done!

Night before Cooking Day: take bag out of freezer and leave in fridge overnight. If it doesn't thaw a little bit, you might have a hard time fitting the frozen chunk into the crockpot.

On Cooking Day: Dump contents of freezer bag into crockpot, and cover. Cook on low 8 hours or until it looks good. If ingredients aren't frozen, cook on low 4 hours or until chicken is no longer pink.


Blogging FAIL

So, remember back in the first part of October when I said I was joining the Ultimate Blog Challenge for the month of October? 31 posts in 31 days? Yeah. Well, it's still October, and let's just say I've failed this challenge miserably. I could blame it on the fact that I went on a bit of a vacation and wanted to "unplug" a bit while at the beach, or I could say that things have been super-busy at work (true), but really, I can't make excuses. I knew all of these things were going on when I signed up for the Challenge. I could have planned better and wrote posts to schedule for later. But I didn't. I got lazy. So now I'm owning up. I'm not going to hide from it.

Blogging FAIL.

But, I am planning to do things a little differently around here. I want to make more of this blog, attain a little focus, maybe change the name and add new goals for my bloggy-self. No more excuses.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Typography Tuesday on Wednesday - Subway Art

Subway Art, or Subway Sign art, has taken the crafty blog world by storm. It's everywhere. And you know it's a thing when Restoration Hardware picks up on it and is selling it, too. Or maybe Restoration Hardware started the whole thing, I'm not sure.

Anywho, Subway Art is certainly trendy right now. It's inspired by the vintage signs found in subway stations with the different routes/trains listed. Something a little like this:

These are reprints that are being sold be Restoration Hardware. I love the look of them; clean, simple, straight, and not much extra space (or "white" space).

If you check out their selection, you'll see these reproductions are a tad bit spendy. So, crafty people out there in blogland are creating their own versions of subway art, and some of them are quite nice, in my opinion. This type of art is being adapted to many different things: family rules, wedding invites, holidays, birth announcements, etc. Below are a few favorites I've seen out there...

A birth announcement I created (of course I had to throw in something of my own!)

Those are just a few examples of what my crafty friends are creating out there. If you have Photoshop and want to do this on your own, Saved By Love Creations has a fabulous tutorial. Check it out, and get creating!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Update

Well hello there. I admit, I haven't been keeping up with the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and now I'm over a week behind in posting. That's just not good. I feel like I have a valid excuse though: I was on vacation. And who thinks about blogging when they're at the beach? Okay I did think about it a little bit, but I just didn't act on it. I didn't open Blogger one time while on vacation. I don't think I even did that much internet surfing, which, for me, is kind of huge. But it was vacation. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Now, however, it's time to face reality and get back into routine. Today was Monday, the first day back to work and school, and it wasn't so bad. Hopefully that trend will continue for the rest of the week.

Stay tuned for regularly scheduled programming! I have some recipes to post, some typography to talk about, and more.

Thanks for coming back!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Freezer Cooking Friday: Recipes to Try

Today's Freezer Cooking Friday consists of a list of recipes that I want to try, and those that we've enjoyed over the past week. I didn't do any freezer cooking this week, but we have been enjoying the fruits of my previous labors! I love having a stocked freezer.

Here's what we had in the last week:
  • Monday: Enchiladas (recipe coming soon!) - this was the first time I tried my regular enchilada recipe for the freezer. It was a hit! They weren't soggy, or too dry, so I'll be making this one ahead again soon. Really soon. I love enchiladas.
  • Tuesday: Hawaiian Chicken in the Crockpot, from Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer. Another yummy one that's always a family favorite. It's so easy to throw everything in a ziploc bag to freeze, then on cooking day, just dump it into the crockpot. Dinner is done!
  • Wednesday: Tacos - pre-cooked and seasoned ground beef, thawed, reheated in microwave. Such a timesaver.
  • Thursday: Leftovers for me and the hubs, chicken nuggets for the kids. Also known as "cop-out" night.
  • Friday: Typically our day to eat out, or dine with parents, which is the case tonight (spaghetti!).
The freezer stock is getting low, but we're on vacation next week, so I won't do another session of cooking/prepping for probably another two weeks. But I can still hunt down recipes in the meantime, and get a headstart on planning. Or at least, planning the way I plan - lists in notebooks.

Recipes I want to try in my next cooking session:
  • Cheesy Rigatoni Bake, Daily Dish Recipes - Looks so cheesy! I love cheese, so I know this would be a winner
  • Cheddar & Cracker Chicken, What's Cooking Chicago - This was on my list to try last time, but I ran out of chicken. Definitely doing next time. Again, cheese.
  • Pepperoni Roll-Ups, Dinner with the Donnells - I love pizza, the kids love pizza, and who doesn't like crescent rolls?
  • Taco Meat - a staple in our house
  • Enchiladas - see above
  • Crockpot Orange Chicken, The Pursuit of Happiness - this one looks really good, so I think I'll make it this go 'round.
Well, that's a start. Have you tried Freezer Cooking yet? Try it! You won't go back to those harried weeknight dinner times, I swear. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pondering: Is A Cash-Only System the Way to Go?

I'll admit it: I'm terrible with money. I always have been. And even in spite of my attempts to manage my money better, I'm still terrible. Confession: I LOVE spending money. It doesn't even matter what it's being spent on, most of the time. I like to shop, I like to buy things, I like to have things. I'm sure there's some psycho-analytical reason for all of this, but I've never had it evalutated. Maybe I should.

When I was in college especially, I would say, "I'm too young to worry about money", and I would spend every cent my parents sent me. Then the next week when another check came in the mail, I would do the same thing.

Now that I'm older (wiser?) and have a dual-income household to manage, that way of life is long gone. But I'm still not managing things very well. I use my debit card for everything, and claim to keep a running tally in my head, but I'm really not that great at math. I've been burned living this way many times, and Wells Fargo is loving having me as a customer, I'm sure.

So where does that leave me? Pondering going cash-only, that's where that leaves me. But is that the way to go? I know there are more than a few financial "gurus" out there who claim that it is the only way to go, but will it work for me? Maybe I should challenge myself to not use my debit card for a month, and only use the cash that's in my pocket. That would certainly be an interesting blog series!

I'm thinking what I might try is this: pay bills out of each paycheck, then withdraw cash for everything else. Things such as groceries, gas, eating out, etc. would all be paid for with cash. I'll have to do more research on the Envelope system.

What are your thoughts? How do you handle your family's budget?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Typography Tuesday: Font Addict

I mentioned in my blog last week about how much I love Typography. Fonts, fonts and more fonts, I love them all. If you're a font addict like me, there are lots of great sites to get free fonts for you to have as your very own. Be careful, though. Make sure you read the terms for each font you download; I wouldn't want anyone to be sued for using and selling a product using a font that was only meant for personal use.

My favorite font sites:
There are countless others, but you'll probably just get stuck on for hours, so I won't make a huge list.

In order to use all of the fonts that I have collected over the years - and I really should count them - I've recently been trying to come up with new ways (for me) to use fonts. I've embroidered with different fonts, but I just don't have much time for embroidery these days, so I've moved on to die-cutting and print. I've been personalizing different items using adhesive vinyl and my Pazzles die-cutting machine. There are lots of other people doing this same thing, so I'm trying to make myself stand out a bit by using fonts maybe not everyone is using.

This font is Ziggy Zoe, one that I found out there on a free font site, and thought it would be great on water bottles. It is. I've sold a ton of these things! Now if I could only get them back in stock...

I've also ventured into print a little bit, inspired of course, by Pinterest. Last week I featured my "I Love You Because..." print, and this week I have a slight variation:

It's a good daily reminder of what you are grateful for, making you think of something new every day. I know I need to be reminded sometimes, and seemingly a lot more lately. It's dry erase, so that makes it easy to change it up each day.

So, I'm going to keep playing with my fonts, and looking for great examples and more inspiration. Be sure to check back next Tuesday and every Tuesday for more Typography!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Duh, Pinning.

It is true. I can't.stop.pinning. I pin at work, I pin at home, I pin on the go. It's ridiculous. I'm an addict. I can't help myself.

There is always new stuff on Pinterest, and I want to make sure I see it all. New recipes, new crafty ideas, new funny photos...the list goes on. My favorite categories are DIY/Crafts (obviously), Recipes, and Kids. There are so many great ideas and so much inspiration all in one place it's almost overwhelming.

Here are some of my recent Pinterest favorites:

I love Star Wars humor.

This original idea was for storing scrapbook materials (stickers, specifically), but I think it would be great to use in the kitchen, to hold all of the recipe printouts that I've found on Pinterest. A Spinning Cookbook. Oh, I better copyright that. Spinning Cookbook © <-- and I totally just googled how to make that symbol. 

Baked Penne Pasta. I had this for dinner just last night and it was yummy! I made it ahead as part of my Freezer Cooking Plan last week; took it out of the freezer yesterday morning and baked it for dinner. I liked it, the kids liked it, we'll be having it again!

So, that's what I've been pinning. What have you found lately?

A Day in the Life of a Working Mommy

My typical weekday looks a little something like this:
  • 4:30am: Husband's alarm goes off; he's out the door in 15 minutes flat.
  • 6:30am: Alarm goes off
  • 6:39am: Snooze alarm goes off
  • 6:45am: Feet hit the floor, and I'm up and running...or, sort of.
  • 6:50am: Jump in the shower before the 2-year old wakes up, otherwise forget the shower
  • 7:00am: Out of the shower, waking up children
  • 7:05am: Getting dressed, waking up children
  • 7:15am: Argue with 5-year old about wardrobe selections while trying to convince 2-year old to get a diaper change and get dressed.
  • 7:30am: Tracking down shoes, while feeding dog, letting dog out and hopefully back in, getting snacks, juice boxes, and mommy-juice (aka coffee)
  • 7:45am: Out the door, in the car
  • 7:55am: Drop 2-year old off at school, try to avoid altercations in the super-tiny parking lot
  • 7:58am: Convince 5-year old that Mommy's tired of the Backyardigans cd, listen to something else.
  • 8:20am: Drop off 5-year old at different school
  • 8:30-8:45am: In the office.
  • 8:50am: Rest, enjoy the peace and quiet of the early morning office and coffee.
  • 9:00am: Work, work, work.
  • 6:00pm: Out of office, in the car
  • 6:20pm: Pick up 5-year old from school
  • 6:25pm: Car snacks and discussion of the day with 5-year old
  • 6:45pm: Home
  • 6:46pm: Routine tackle-hugs by 2-year old
  • 7:00pm: Dinner (on a good day)
  • 7:15pm: Convince children vegetables are necessary, and that we can't always have chicken nuggets (daily battle)
  • 7:55pm: Cleanup
  • 8:00pm: Kids Bath/Jammies/Cuddles/Storytime
  • 8:30pm: Bedtime
  • 8:35pm: Mommy/Daddy TV/blogging/crafting time
  • 10:00pm: Off to bed to start all over again in the morning
Wow. I've never written it all out before Scary stuff. I'm fortunate in that I have a very flexible employer where I don't have to dress professionally everyday. If I had to fit in trips to the dry cleaner or finding matching heels and stockings everyday, I'd be in serious trouble.

What's your day like?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Ultimate Blog Challenge - Again

I've kind of gotten bad about blogging in the last couple of months, so I decided to challenge myself to keep up with things a little better. I enjoy writing, but it seems to have fallen by the wayside lately as I keep adding things to my neverending to-do list. So, for the month of October, I've joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge - 31 days of blogging, or one post everyday. If you've been following along, you may remember that I've done this once before, back in April. I didn't quite make the 31 posts in 31 days, but I was pretty darn close. This time around, my goal is to make it all the way. I know I can do it!

I do have some plans to try to keep it interesting around here: Freezer Cooking Fridays is one new series I've started. Take a look at the first post in the series and you'll see what I'm talking about. I've also started Typography Tuesdays recently. It's fun to have a day of the week tied in with specific posts. It makes it kind of easy to figure out what to write about! The first post was done on a Thursday, but it will be moving to Tuesdays starting this week. Stay tuned!

There will also be product updates, what's new in my shop, recipes, and tutorials posted over the next month, so please check back and see what I'm up to!