Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Take 5

I'm still working on getting our Christmas photos scrapped. Here's the latest two-pager I completed the other day. Those Christmas trees were inspired by a scrapbook page that I saw on Pinterest. Mine ended up smaller than the ones I saw on Pinterest, but I tried to make it work.

To make the trees, I just folded a piece of patterned paper in half and drew one side of the tree (using a ruler helped), then I cut along the line I drew, unfolded the paper, and voila. Christmas tree.

For these embellishments, I had a sheet of paper that was patterned with Christmas ornaments, so I just cut out a whole bunch of them to use as embellishments. I adhered the ornaments to a small square of patterned paper with a foam dot to give the scrapbook page some depth.

I'm always surprised when I go through my stash and find journaling spots that match the color scheme I'm working with. This one actually had a square border around it, but I just cut out the circle.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - March 30

We really don't have much of a meal plan this week. My husband is on spring break from school, so he's off doing fun stuff while I'm at work. I've managed to cobble together a little something for this week for the sake of having something to post today. Here's what we got:

Sunday: jeweled quinoa with chicken sausage

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Thursday: out

Friday: out

Saturday: waffles, eggs, and bacon

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jesus Swagger - Book Review

Do you have Jesus Swagger?

It's not just calling yourself a Christian. It's not just going to church every Sunday. It's not just placing a Jesus fish on your car.

According to author Jarrid Wilson, Jesus Swagger is a lifestyle that follows the teachings of Jesus. It's living a life that reflects Jesus' example. Many people claim to be Christians, but they don't walk the walk. They don't have swagger.

In his book Jesus Swagger: Break Free from Poser Christianity, Wilson challenges Christians to take a leap of faith, to garner up the courage, to fear/respect God enough to truly walk the path Jesus paved. It's hard! Any Christian knows that. In order to walk the Jesus path, you've got to detour off your own selfish path, giving up what you want for what God wants.

In the first chapter, Wilson gives eight examples of differences between being a believer and being a follower. It's not enough to just believe in Christ. You've got to follow his teachings. It's all about your actions. Are you acting in a way that shows people Christ? I once read somewhere that people should be able to look at you and see Christ. That's what this book is about. Can people just tell you're a Christian or are you doing a good job of hiding it because you fear what others will say about you?

One of the passages in the book that stuck out to me was about Mother Teresa. Everyone knows what a great person Mother Teresa was. She's truly unique and one-of-a-kind. But if there are so many Christians in the world, shouldn't there be more people like Mother Teresa? How can there only be one person out of so many who is willing to show the love of Jesus in such an unabashedly public way? There should be millions of Mother Teresas out in the world!

There's a lot of good information in this book. I don't think much of it is unique, but it is a good reminder to Christians to reevaluate where they stand. This would be a book to take off the bookshelf every so often to keep your faith journey in check, to give you strength to be Christ-like without abandon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, March 26, 2015

3 Pizza Toppings for Schar Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts

Several days ago, Schar sent a group of gluten-free food bloggers, including myself, three complimentary boxes of Schar gluten-free pizza crusts with instructions to make some awesome gluten-free pizzas and share them with our blog readers! I made three different pizzas:

To start, you've gotta have your classic pepperoni pizza. I made this one by request from my husband. I used Prego pizza sauce (the jar says "gluten-free"), Hormel pepperoni slices (the package says "gluten-free"), and shredded mozzarella cheese. Super simple. It's truly a classic.

If you like white pizzas (no red sauce), then you might like this one. It's one of my favorite new pizzas! Alfredo sauce as the base (make sure your brand is gluten-free), spinach, shredded mozzarella, and crumbled goat cheese. Man, I love goat cheese.

Another one of my favorite pizzas is a black bean pizza. The topping mixture is just one can of black beans (rinsed and drained), one cup of frozen corn (thawed), 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. chili powder, one chopped avocado, 1/2 cup chopped scallions, 1/2 tsp. salt, three dashes of pepper, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. You can also add diced tomatoes, if you want, but I don't like tomatoes.

For all of these pizzas, just pile your toppings onto the Schar pizza crust and bake according to the instructions on the Schar box. Each box of Schar pizza crusts includes TWO personal-size crusts, and all of the above pizza toppings make enough for two of those pizzas.

What I like about the Schar gluten-free pizza crusts is that they have a nice thin crust consistency and they stay that way even after you top them and bake them. The same cannot be said of other gluten-free pizza crusts, which get a little soggy and chewy after baking.

If you're not a fan of making your own pizza (even if the crust is pre-made), then check out Schar's gluten-free frozen pizzas! There's veggie pizza and cheese pizza to be found in your grocery store's freezer aisle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

You Make Me Merry

This two-pager is just one of many Christmas day scrapbook layouts you're going to be seeing over the next few weeks. I've got a lot of Christmas day pictures to scrap!

I didn't have many Christmas embellishments, so I decided to make some of my own. Those white stars are actually painted onto the page with white acrylic paint. 

Above is the star stencil that I used to paint the stars. I then painted the star stencil with the paint, placed patterned paper behind it, and used glue dots to adhere it to my layout.

One of the best things about scrapbooking is when you pull out random embellishments and make them work. This cluster of embellishments are not Christmas-specific, but they worked! And I was glad to get them out of my stash and onto a page.

Same goes for these embellishments. They just happened to be the right color and offer the right sentiment for these pictures.

Do you only use embellishments that match your papers or your theme, or do you just pull out whatever looks like it will work?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DIY Easter Wreath

A few years ago, I purchased a pre-made Easter egg wreath from the Target $1 spot. It's a perfectly nice wreath for our front door, but I wanted something a little nicer and larger to hang above our mantel during the Easter season. So I looked up a variety of different ideas in my Easter Pinterest board, and then went to Joann Fabric to pick up some supplies:

1. kraft-colored yarn
2. light pink yarn
3. 16-inch foam wreath (white or green)
4. sparkly egg accessories
5. a burlap bunny garland

My plan was to wrap the foam wreath in the kraft-colored yarn, add some of the light pink yarn as an accent, glue the sparkly eggs onto the wreath, and cut off one of the garland's burlap bunnies to also glue to the wreath.

Now, I've made a yarn wreath before. It was really simple! Just wrap the yarn around the foam wreath. However, the foam wreath I purchased wasn't covered in plastic, and you REALLY need your foam wreath in its protective plastic covering. It will make things so much easier. I decided to wrap my wreath in plastic wrap - you know, the stuff you use to attempt to cover bowls of food and it never sticks? Well, it stuck pretty well to the foam.

I did two coats of the kraft-colored yarn to make sure there was no more green left. This is a time-consuming process! Make sure to sit in a comfortable chair while you do this and take frequent breaks, otherwise your fingers and hands will start to cramp up. (Sounds super fun, right? Aren't you just dying to do this now??)

Once the wreath was completely covered, I measured out where I wanted my pink yarn to go. I did two patches close together at the top, and two patches a little more spread out on the bottom. 

(Who am I kidding? I didn't plan for the two bottom patches to be so far apart, but it ended up working, so whatever.)

In the past, I've used a hot glue gun to adhere things onto my craft projects, but I always have issues with stuff falling off after awhile. So this time, I decided to try Aleene's Turbo Tacky Glue to glue the sparkly eggs onto my wreath. A few months ago, I got box of Aleene's Tacky Glue sent to me at work. It's not something we would have reviewed at work, so I brought the box home for use on craft projects. 

It took longer for the tacky glue to dry than hot glue, but surprisingly, the sparkly eggs stuck and they haven't fallen off yet! It helps if you press down on what you're adhering for a few minutes to make sure there is a good bond.

To adhere the burlap bunny from the garland, I used the garland's cardboard packaging to add sturdy backing to the bunny before using the tacky glue to stick the bunny to the wreath.

And here is the finished product:

The container of sparkly eggs had a sheer yellow ribbon on it, which I used as a pretty hook to hang the wreath from the nail already in our brick wall.

Yes, this wreath took me two weeks off and on to complete, but I think all the effort (and hand cramping) was worth it.

Easter is almost here! Are you guys finishing up any last-minute Easter crafts? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - March 23

Snow on the First Day of Spring
Well, we rang in the first day of Spring with snow! I'm hoping that the rest of March is snow-free. Is it summer yet?

Here's what we're eating this week!

Sunday - Mrs. Leeper's Chicken Alfredo

Monday - chicken strips and fries

Tuesday - french bread pizza

Wednesday - sloppy joe's and fries

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - on our own

Saturday - on our own

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cooking with Goya Yuca, EVOO, and Adobo Seasoning

A few weeks ago, Goya sent some food bloggers, including myself, complimentary Goya products to get creative with in the kitchen! I received Goya Adobo Seasoning, Goya EVOO, and Goya Frozen Yuca.

What the heck is yuca?

As a girl of German descent living in the Midwest, yuca was not prominently featured in our grocery stores or my family's cuisine. So I really had no idea what to do with the yuca.

Before I got started, I did some research online to figure out just what it was that was now taking up space in my freezer.

Yuca is a root vegetable with many similarities to white potatoes. This super starchy tuber has its history in South America and continues to be used in South American and Caribbean cuisine as well as Asian and African meals. You can find a whole lot more information on yuca from this very helpful post over at Empowered Sustenance. There is also an embedded video from Predominantly Paleo that shows you how to prepare frozen or fresh yuca and turn it into a dough. It was this video that inspired me!

Goya did give me a yuca recipe (more on that later), but I really wanted to try something adventurous, and for my first outing with yuca, it turned out pretty well!

I used the Paleo Empanadas recipe from Predominantly Paleo to guide me, using roughly 3 cups of frozen yuca (cooking it according to the package instructions), vegetable oil instead of avocado oil (I am not that worried about my health), regular ground beef instead of grass fed (sorry cows), and regular sea salt instead of garlic sea salt.

The only issue I had with turning yuca into dough was that it gets super sticky once cooked, and it kind of clogged up my blender, and so I wasn't able to blend up all of the yuca as much as I would have liked. The original recipe calls for a VitaMix, which I don't have, so I don't know if that is just more powerful than my regular old CuisinArt blender. I would probably try to separate the yuca into two batches to make it easier to blend.

And here is the finished result! Little gluten-free empanadas made with a yuca dough! How cool is that? They were very yummy, too. (This recipe only makes 12, so next time I think I would serve it with rice or some type of dipping sauce.)

I then made the recipe that Goya gave me for Yuca with Garlic Sauce, which uses the yuca and Goya EVOO. I served it as a side to turkey burgers instead of french fries. 

Gotta say, not as fond of yuca in this form. The yuca didn't seem to suck in the garlic sauce enough to really get the flavor, and the cooked yuca tends to get these long fibrous bits in them that you have to pick out because they're not super pleasant to eat.

And last but not least, I made my own little Mexican rice side dish to accompany some Udi's breakfast burritos for dinner one night. For the rice, I used a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 cup of Minute Rice, 1 tsp. of Goya Adobo Seasoning, and 1/8 tsp. of cumin. Just cook the Minute Rice according to the package instructions, and then add in everything else when done. Kind of a nice change of pace from traditional white (or brown) rice.

I think the Adobo Seasoning would also add a nice flavor to a breakfast hash or home fries. Spice up your morning a little bit!

Have you tried any of these products? How do you use them in your cooking? Share favorite recipes or Goya products in the comments below!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Christmas Eve Scrapbook Page

Merry Christmas! Well... it's still Christmas in my scrapbook room.

Here's a super easy page I created, if you can even say "created", the other day. All I did was add embellishments and letter stickers. The paper itself, part of the Elle's Studio Noel line, was decorated to look like a layered scrapbook page.

While I do like layering my own scrapbook pages, sometimes pre-printed pages like this are just so nice because you don't have to do a lot of thinking or worry about having the right paper and embellishments.

The "Absolutely Amazing" chipboard sticker, the polka dot flower, and the Pebbles letter stickers were the only things I added to this layout.

The journaling spot was already on the page, which is so nice because sometimes I never have just the right journaling tag to match what I'm working on. I have a whole bag of random journaling tags, but it's still hard to find ones in the right color or style.

I loved those pre-printed stars and definitely didn't want to cover them up. I printed my pictures out as 3x5s (on my home printer) and then cropped them a bit so that I wasn't covering up too much of the pre-printed details.

How far along are you with last year's Christmas pages?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook - REVIEW

I'll be the first person to tell you that you don't need a lot of cookbooks in your kitchen, especially for special diets. I used to think maybe you didn't need any cookbooks because every recipe you can look up online. But I've changed my tune. If you're eating gluten-free, you really only need one cookbook: Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook by Camilla V. Saulsbury.

We love Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flours. Use them all the time. But this cookbook is so much more than baking. It encompasses recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks all using different gluten-free whole grains.

"What's a gluten-free whole grain?" you ask. This cookbook tells you! And in detail! Learn about the nutritional values, history of use, and cooking methods for nine gluten-free grains (such as amaranth, quinoa, and brown rice). There's even a helpful list of gluten-free fridge, freezer, and pantry staples to ensure you're always stocked up on safe and healthy alternatives.

I had a lot of fun testing out different recipes from this cookbook. The Pork, Bok Choy, and Millet Hot Pot was a definite crowd pleaser. My husband even went back for seconds!

I was also fond of the Jeweled Quinoa with Chicken Sausage. My husband didn't eat that one because he says he doesn't like quinoa. Who doesn't like quinoa??? I eat quinoa at breakfast, dinner, and lunch, if there are leftovers!

Other recipes I tried out from this cookbook were the Banana Breakfast Cookies and Quinoa Risotto with Bacon and Peas. (Have I mentioned how much I love quinoa?) These were very yummy and very easy! All the recipes I tried took around 30 minutes to make, so these are perfect for busy weeknights.

I love this cookbook's variety of recipes and think it's a great resource that will be used over and over again by those with Celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook is published by Robert Rose and on bookstore shelves now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Charisma - YA Book Review

If there was a pill or an injection that you could take to make yourself more sociable and outgoing, would you take it? That's the premise of Jeanne Ryan's latest YA novel Charisma.

Aislyn is shy. So shy that she can't go to parties without needing to leave after 10 minutes, can't speak in front of crowds, can't talk to the boy she likes. (Because as with every YA novel, there is a boy!)

But then Aislyn is offered an underground gene therapy treatment called Charisma that promises to alter her DNA and reduce her crippling shyness. And it works! It's also apparently working for others who have been given this drug, but its negative side effects, namely putting people into comas and killing them, begins to outweigh its positive effects. Aislyn is determined to find a solution to this dangerous drug before it claims her life.

This futuristic medical thriller really kept my interest and poses interesting questions, especially because some of the science in the book is not far off from where scientists are today. How far is too far when it comes to changing yourself instead of accepting who you are, good and bad qualities? Do you really need some sort of crutch in order to have a good time and be liked?

There's also a message about not giving up, fighting for what you believe in, and the promise of medical progress, especially for those with life-altering and life-threatening diseases, such as Cystic Fibrosis, which is the disease Aislyn's little brother has.

I like that the author included information on gene therapy and viruses at the end of the book to give readers some information and help them put Aislyn's fictional world into real-world perspective.

Charisma is published by Dial and is available on bookstore shelves now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - March 16

We are halfway through March! Doesn't the warmer weather feel nice? I am particularly fond of it still being light out when I drive home from work. However, I would also like it to be light out when I drive to the bus stop in the morning, but that will come in time. Summertime!

Okay, I'm jumping ahead of myself. Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: pizza with Schar pizza crusts

Monday: chicken nuggets and fries

Tuesday: taco pasta

Wednesday: breakfast burritos with adobo rice (rice recipe to follow)

Thursday: pasta, salad, bread

Friday: on our own

Saturday: dinner out

Friday, March 13, 2015

Birthdays & Ornaments

Another Christmas scrapbook page to share with you today! I had some trouble with this one. I had to take a break from it for a few days before going back and figuring it out. Sometimes the layout just doesn't come to me at first. Do you ever have that problem? What do you do?

These are pictures from December 23, 2014. We always celebrate my brother-in-law's birthday on the 23rd because his real birthday is the 25th. And because my birthday is the 26th, I get to participate in the celebration.

We also received our Christmas ornaments from my in-laws, and my husband and I exchange ornaments. Last year I got my husband an plane ornament that I had personalized with the words "We survived Kuwait Airways 2014". That was my unique nod to our summer vacation to London and Paris. My husband got me a Harry Potter ornament in honor of our visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour while on that vacation.

And now I'm going to share a little secret with you that hopefully you wouldn't have known if I hadn't shown you. I didn't have an extra "t" in the letters that I wanted to use, so I used White Out to turn an "f" into a "t".

I was committed to these letters!! Have you ever done anything like this in order to make something work on your layout?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Maple Sugaring at NJ's Great Swamp

When I was a kid, I hated maple syrup. If someone served me French toast, I ate it plain. If someone served me pancakes, I spread butter on top or used a fruit syrup like raspberry or blueberry syrup.

But maple syrup? Blech.

Fast forward many, many years and now I always eat maple syrup on my pancakes AND waffles.

I outgrew my hatred of maple syrup.
(Just one of the many foods of which I've outgrown my hatred. I used to not "like" spinach because one time cooked spinach landed on my arm, and it was hot and it burnt me. Thank goodness I got past that one. Still can't get past bananas, though. Sometimes I think, "Man, I could really go for a banana", and then I realize that what I imagine a banana tastes like is not really what a banana tastes like.)

But the maple syrup you buy in the store, unless you're buying pure maple syrup, isn't really REAL maple syrup. Sorry, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth's, but you're pretty much just corn syrup. (Side note: how come there isn't a male brand of fake syrup?)

Pure maple syrup is tapped from a maple tree as sap and then boiled until all the water evaporates and all you've got is the sugar, which at a temperature of 219 degrees becomes syrup.

Sap collecting in a bucket on a tapped tree
How do I know this? Well, New Jersey is home to sugar maple and red maple trees, and is in an area of the U.S. where the weather is just perfect for getting sap from these trees. And you can learn about tapping maple trees for sap at the Maple Sugaring Events at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham, New Jersey.

I attended one of the demonstrations last weekend out of curiosity for just what this event was. The promise of a maple syrup taste test also did a lot to lure me there.

Mindy, our guide for the day, tapping a tree!
The weekend demonstrations are definitely more kid-oriented, and because the maple syrup season is during winter, you'll want to wear your snow boots for the outdoor part of the presentation. It wasn't as hands-on as I had hoped, but perhaps there's more of that at the season-end Maple Sugar Festival.

If I'm promised food, I will usually show up. Also, there is quite a difference between real and fake syrup!
I did learn a lot, more than I thought I knew about maple syrup. And it was a nice and relatively inexpensive way to spend an hour on a Saturday afternoon. The maple syrup season ends this weekend in New Jersey, and you can find out more about this Saturday's event here. If you can't make it, take the time to check out this event next year, especially if you've got kids or have an interest in maple syrup.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Christmas Card Pics

Sometimes I look out the window and think it really must still be December or January and not March. Well, in my scrap room it definitely is still December because I'm still scrapbooking the last few pictures from December 2014.

And then I've got to do our summer 2014 scrapbook album.

It seems like I might be complaining about all the scrapbooking I have to do, but really I'd rather be scrapbooking than doing anything else!!

Anywho, here is a two-page layout I made using pictures that were included in Christmas cards we received. All of the actual cards are in my December Daily album, but these loose photos needed a home, too.

There's also a random picture of our Christmas tree on this page because I just didn't feel like giving it its own stand-alone page.

I used silver, black, and white markers to write everybody's names on the photos. The little flags are October Afternoon, and the chipboard snowflakes were just something from my stash.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Easy Easter Centerpiece

I made an Easter Pinterest board with lots of Easter crafts, basket stuffers, and recipes to get into the Easter spirit (and bring a little bit of spring to our Northeast winter that just won't let up).

On this board you'll find three different centerpiece ideas using jelly beans, Peeps, and flowers. They're all pretty much the same idea, and I liked it so much that I made one myself. Honestly, I just used the pinned images as guidance because putting this together really is easy and straightforward. But I wanted to share just a few tips on how I did mine.

I used six five-ounce containers of jelly beans (any color you want), two 12-count packs of bunny Peeps (any color you want), a 10-inch vase, and a large plastic cup.

The trick to this is placing a large plastic cup in the center of the vase to hold the flowers and keep the jelly beans and Peeps upright. The cup I used was a souvenir cup from a baseball game. It was just the right size, and a way to actually use it instead of have it take up space in our kitchen cabinets.

In order to keep any jelly beans from falling into the cup when I dumped them into the vase, I covered the cup with aluminum foil.

After you fill the bottom of the vase around the cup with jelly beans, stack the Peeps on top of the jelly beans around the vase. This will cover up the cup, so you won't even be able to tell that it's there! Fill the cup with water and place the flowers inside the cup.

I wouldn't recommend eating any of this once Easter ends because it will probably be a bit stale. But the good news is that you won't actually use all the Peeps you buy. I had about four or five left over...for eating!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - March 9

Is the snow finally over with? Hopefully it is with temperatures in the 40s this week. ABOUT TIME.

We've got tons of new stuff to eat this week. I'm trying out a bunch of recipes from a gluten-free cookbook I'm going to review soon. I'm very optimistic, so we'll see how everything turns out!

Sunday: Pork, Bok Choy, and Millet Hot Pot

Monday: Jennie-O Turkey Burgers with Yuca with Garlic Sauce

Tuesday: Italian Bean Soup with grilled cheese sandwiches

Wednesday: Jeweled Quinoa with Chicken Sausage

Thursday: Mom's Lasagna

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: on our own

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ground Turkey Ragu with Gluten-Free Tagliatelle

This is a perfect example of taking a recipe from a magazine that was not listed as gluten-free and making it gluten-free.

Literally the only thing I had to do to alter this recipe from the March issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray was substitute regular tagliatelle with Schar gluten-free tagliatelle.

That's right! If you've ever thought, "Oh, the only kind of gluten-free pasta I can find is penne and spaghetti," well you need to check out Schar! I find Schar products at my local ShopRite, and I love the variety of pastas, breads, cookies, and more that are all gluten-free! They are even coming out with gluten-free croissants soon!!

But back to the tagliatelle.

You can find the original recipe from the Everyday with Rachael Ray website here. And if you need to make it gluten-free, just use gluten-free pasta!

Couldn't be easier and it tastes great as leftovers, too!