Family

Everything at Deals to Meals revolves around our families. Planning healthy meals, learning to live on a budget and enjoying time together. We love sharing our favorite traditions, parenting tips, and helpful ideas on how to manage a household.

 

11 Healthy, Creative and FUN Home School Lunch Ideas
August 14, 2017 | No Category | Ellen Johnson

Hi Friends! Do we have a treat for you? My dear friend Ellen Johnson has put together 11 of the most adorable, healthy, creative, delicious and FUN home lunch ideas you’ll ever see! She taught a…

 

Weekend WrapUp
August 13, 2017 | No Category | Deals to Meals

Had a fabulous week this week! Celebrated Todd’s second half of his birthday with an outdoor Sundance Theater Play of Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. Had a surprise guess showing of David Osmond which was fun! Went on a date with friends to Parade of Homes (and …

 

Easiest Summer Birthday Cake: Campfire Chocolate Marshmallow Cake
August 11, 2017 | No Category | Deals to Meals

I was looking through my files and came across a cake picture that I forgot to share with you from last year. This cake is so stinking cute and would be perfect for any end of summer gatherings, or su…

 

Todd’s 40th Birthday Shenanigans
August 5, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Hey friends! Hope you had a great weekend. We had a wonderful time celebrating Todd’s BIG 40th birthday. We had lots of friends, food and fun! And of course we had WAY too many hot dogs and peanut butter chocolate treats in honor of T-Dawg 😉 So grateful for amazing …

 

Moving Weekend–Feeling so Grateful
July 30, 2017 | No Category | Deals to Meals

This past week has been so difficult. I’ve heard moving can be as traumatizing as a death or divorce. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it is interesting how you have to go through a grieving process. I know this has only begun and there will be more tears t…

 

5 Favorite Camping Meals to Simplify Your Summer (So easy your kids can make them!)
July 27, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

This post is probably coming a little too late, but in case you have a trip planned later this summer, I wanted to share a few tips to make camping ea…

 

Bear Lake Highlights–Favorite Summer Gadget and Fun Kid Game
July 26, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Summer wouldn’t be complete without our family reunion in Bear Lake Utah. We have been going here since I was a young girl and it is one of my very happiest places on earth. The water is so blue…

 

#HisDay Foundation of Christ
July 23, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

While camping up in Bear Lake this week we had the awesome opportunity of being at church with an apostle from our church, Elder Quinton L. Cook. We didn’t know he’d be there, but we ended up being on the second row and were able to hear Him bear his testimony of…

 

#His Day: Stay in the Boat and Stay Centered on Christ
July 16, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

The other weekend my family and I did one of our favorite summer activities. We LOVE to raft down the Provo river. This river isn’t a very aggressive river, but it is the perfect speed for lots …

 

Thursday Tip: Salad Dressings and Seasonings on the Go
June 29, 2017 | No Category | Deals to Meals

Now that vacation time is in full swing, I wanted to share a simple tip that makes eating on the go a little easier and inexpensive. When our family travels, I try and find places to stay that allow u…

 

Father’s Day Sweet Treats (Oreo-style)
June 15, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

It’s almost Father’s Day and that means every kind of snack, chip, cookie or treat is on sale this week. The Dad’s in our life must be known for having a sweet tooth! This is one of the only times a year that Oreo cookies go on sale for less than Costco. If…

 

It’s true–we are moving! Our home is for sale, check it out!
June 12, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Typing this post has been several months in the making. I am still in denial that my family is moving. After 14 amazing, blissful, wonderful years in this home, it is time for a new adventure. I am no…

 

Trek 2017: What is our Sacrifice?
June 11, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Pioneer Trek 2017 was the BEST!! This past weekend was one of the most amazing and spiritual experiences of my life. I am a changed person and I will be forever grateful for this sacred opportunity we had. Todd and I, my three teenagers, and 465 other youth and adults headed…

 

Puff Pastry Apple Roses
June 8, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

If you’re a fan of scanning Pintrest for delicious recipes, you’ve probably no doubt seen these Puff Pastry Apple Roses. They are literally everywhere online lately! These make the  sweetest, most delicate dessert for any wedding shower, baby shower or ladie…

 

#HisDay: Friends and Family
May 28, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

For thirteen years we have lived across the street from one of the most darling families you could ever imagine. From the first time I met them, we knew we were kindred spirits and they quickly became family. These past couple months as we’ve helped them move, it&#8217…

 

5 Ways to Create Your Perfect Day
May 2, 2017 | No Category | Brittany Jones

It’s Tuesday and that means I get to introduce you to another one of our amazing contributors on this blog. These women are so talented and I can’t wait for you to get to know them better as time goes on. Brittany Jones is no exception! I have known Brittany for …

 

#HisDay: Each Life That Touches Ours for Good
April 30, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

One of my favorite Hymns from church is a song titled, Each Life That Touches Ours for Good. I have been thinking about this song this past weekend and all of those beautiful people who have touched my life for good. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by so many angels an…

 

Hot Corn Queso
April 26, 2017 | No Category | Ellen Johnson

Want a fun way to get to know your neighbors? Our neighborhood has started dinner groups and they are a blast. All you need are a couple people to host, and several people to attend. The person who hosts plans the main dish and then everyone else coming brings side dish…

 

#HisDay: God Loves Us Completely
April 23, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

This is one of my favorite quotes. I printed it off years ago and it’s still hanging in my bathroom all these years later. I read it every single day and find comfort in it’s message about God’s love. It’s such a great reminder that even though w…

 

Grocery Savings, Easter Highlights & Pintrest ‘Nailed-Its’
April 17, 2017 | No Category | Deals to Meals

How was your Easter weekend? I hope you had a wonderfully relaxing time with your family and friends. Our children’s school break was last week so we decided to go hang out in St. George with ou…

 

#HisDay: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”
April 16, 2017 | No Category | Deals to Meals

Happy Easter Friends! Hope you are having a beautiful day spending time with family and worshiping our Savior on this special Sunday. Let us celebrate…

 

Easter Recipe Roundup: 16 Favorite Easter Recipes
April 13, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Before all of your Easter meal plans are finalized, I wanted to share a few of our favorite Easter recipes with you, as well as others from the web. These blog authors are so talented and I’m excited to share there ideas with you (seriously…look at those chicks. …

 

Free Prince of Peace Digital Downloads: Creating a Sacred Easter Week
April 9, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

I can’t believe it’s Easter time already. It feels like it was just yesterday we were celebrating at my sisters house with our annual Passover meal. I love this time of year and the c…

 

Easter Gift Giveaway: FREE Living Scriptures Streaming Membership ($155 Value)
April 3, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

  Friends, do I have a giveaway for you!? I am thrilled about this and can’t wait to share this giveaway with our readers. We are giving aw…

 

#HisDay: Optimism
April 2, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Question of the day friends: are you a complainer or an eternal optimist?  I am married to the most upbeat, optimistic person in the world! Todd is my hero. He has so many attributes I look up to. To be honest though…sometimes it can be hard to be married to someo…

 

#HisDay: Worth the Wait
March 19, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s timing lately. I don’t know if it’s the beginning of a New Year, a new blog, family changes happening, or what it is exactly, but I keep thinking how grateful I am for a loving Heavenly Father who has a p…

 

St. Patrick’s Day Pancakes & Leprechaun Smoothies
March 17, 2017 | No Category | Deals to Meals

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! For our clan that means waking up to some favorite green treats, a note from the Leprechaun, green milk and lots of cousin’s over for green pancakes and s…

 

Welcome Friends to our NEW Blog!
March 16, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

It’s official and we are ready to PARTY! What a crazy, fun, thrilling last two years this has been designing and putting together this blog. We couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out and we hope you love it too. Really, the only reason we have put th…

 

#HisDay: Do Your Best
March 12, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Happy Sabbath! While creating this new blog I have thought long and hard about what I want this space to entail. I have pondered for many hours on what I have to offer the world that hasn’t already been done already. Or, honestly, hasn’t been done better than wha…

 

Vacation Favorites and Traditions
February 16, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

  It’s been a few days back from our trip and I can’t stop thinking about how wonderful it was to relax and be with my family. For journaling purposes (I’m awful about that!) I wanted to share just a few highlights for you 😉 Our trip started in Anah…

 

Sunny California Get-Away
February 11, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

We have officially ran away from the snow and are spending some time in sunny California–and are loving it! Whether we’re playing at the ocean,  spending the day at Knott’s Berry Farm, or hanging out at our condo, it’s been a great time. One way …

 

Planning the Perfect Party {Menu, Decor, Favorite Things}
January 20, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Last week was my sisters 35th birthday and we decided to throw her a surprise birthday party. She is a huge fan of birthday’s so we wanted to make this one special. Instead of just going out to …

 

Happy New Year and Holiday Updates
January 2, 2017 | No Category | Shandra

Happy New Year! I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas, and Christmas break with your friends and family. We have loved every minute of this past week and I have taken advantage of no blogging and just hanging out with the fam. Our break has been nothing but slow, relaxin…

 

Christmas Swirl Bread
December 20, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

My sister is a bread genius! She is the one that came up with our Rainbow Bread that people have loved on You Tube. It is such a fun, creative way to take bread from boring to beautiful. Well, she decided to use this same technique and turn our favorite bread recipe into thi…

 

New Christmas Song: If I Were a Shepherd
December 14, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

  Okay friends, I have a HUGE Christmas present for you from a dear friend of mine. She is the sweetest, most humble woman you would ever meet, and has a talent bigger than life. Her name is Stephanie and she lives here in my neighborhood. She surprised us this year wit…

 

#Lighttheworld: 25 Days in 25 Ways
December 1, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

I couldn’t be more excited about a new initiative our church has started today to help bring Christ back to the center of Christmas: #LightTheWorld. We all get so busy and it’s easy to get distracted during the holiday season. I am grateful for this new program t…

 

Holiday Traditions and Homemade Hot Chocolate
November 16, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Anyone that’s followed this blog for awhile knows how completely important I feel traditions are for families. In fact, you could probably say I’m slightly obsessed with traditions. My parents made my childhood SO fun! In fact, many times I feel guilty that my ch…

 

Money Saving Tip: Prepackaged Chip Bags
November 16, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

For those who follow our Instagram (thanks mucho!) you might have seen a Money Saving Tip I shared earlier today. Making home lunches for my children can be a challenge and it can add up quickly. Although it is still much less expensive to send a home lunch, sometimes having…

 

Happy Veteran’s Day
November 11, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Happy Veterans Day! Went to the most touching and patriotic program at my children’s school today (seriously, it’s the BEST school ever!). There were few dry eyes and we all left feeling so grateful for the men and women who serve our country. I feel so blessed t…

 

Happy Halloween 2016
October 31, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Hope you all had a wonderful, happy and safe Halloween!

 

Cancun Update and 9 Favorite Mexican Recipes
October 21, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Oh, it’s been good to be home and back in the swing of things. Todd and I went on a dreamy, romantic getaway last week to Cancun Mexico. We went with my sisters and their hubbys to an all-inclusive resort and had the best time of our lives. We had been to Cancun severa…

 

The Mom Conference Encore Day
October 18, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

  Last week’s Mom Conference was amazing! I wasn’t able to watch all of the webinars since I was in Mexico, but the ones I was able to I loved. I always learn so much every time I watch their presentations. In case some of you missed this free conference, th…

 

Cherry Peach Cobbler with Brown Sugar Crumble and Summer Happenings
July 29, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

 One of my favorite parts about summer is all of the fresh fruit that goes on sale. I love that fresh peaches, apricots, cherries, watermelon and cantaloupe are all on sale this week. I am a…

 

Our Favorite Things Giveaway: Sevylor Fish Hunter 6 Man Raft
July 25, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Congratulations to Eraka B. who was the winner of our $25 Amazon Gift Certificate. We are excited to be giving away an another $25 gift card this week and highlighting another one of our favorite prod…

 

Our Favorite Things: Brookstone Pocket Projector
July 11, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

  BROOKSTONE POCKET PROJECTOR Each week I am excited to share with you some of our family’s favorite products that make our life more enjoyable and fun! Whether it’s kitchen gadgets, specialty foods, or products my family uses on a regular basis, we want to …

 

Healthy Hulk Green Pancakes {with Spinach and Bananas}
July 6, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

  No, it’s not your eyes. These pancakes are meant to be green. Before you mock them, or disregard this recipe, give them a try! We served these for a family breakfast this past weekend and…

 

Happy 4th of July 2016
July 6, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Happy fourth of July 2016 everyone!

 

S’more Cookie Bars and Summer Update
June 25, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

  Sorry I have been awful at blogging this past week. We are spending some good, quality time disconnected this week with my inlaws and my family. We are on our annual week long reunion and having a blast. I really love the way his family does reunions. There are 9 sibl…

 

Happy Father’s Day {Favorite Family Tradition}
June 20, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing fathers and husbands out there! I am so grateful for all of the inspiring, strong, faithful men in my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better fath…

 

My Go-To Party Menu when throwing a shower, small party or ladies brunch
June 12, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Spring and summer seems to be the time for weddings, baby showers and family parties. I wanted to share our go-to party menu that we use for baby showers, wedding showers, and ladies brunches when we …

 

5 Father’s Day Gift Ideas—your man and family will love {Special discounts for our readers!}
June 9, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Can you believe it’s only a littler over a week before it’s Father’s Day? Father’s Day is one of my favorite days because I ge…

 

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
June 1, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

 What is not to love about these super cute Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes? My dear friend Ellen made these for her daughter’s birthday party and I wanted to share them with you. If you have a birthday party coming up, or just want a fun, summer treat, this is the recipe…

 

Best Brownie Recipe EVER
May 30, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

  Happy Memorial Day! I couldn’t be more grateful for the many men and women who have lost their lives and give of their time and talents to serving our country. I am grateful every day to be an American and feel so proud and blessed to live in this great nation. …

 

Happy Mother’s Day!
May 8, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Just wanted to wish all of you amazing women and mothers a Happy Mothers Day! I’m so grateful for all of the beautiful and inspiring women who have touched my life. I’m also grateful to have the privilege of being a mother to these five kiddos. Hope you’ve …

 

Homemade French Bread Video
April 19, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

  Subscribe to Deals to Meals on YouTube so you don’t miss any of our cooking videos. This is our most popular recipe on our blog {Homemade French Bread}, so we thought we’d show you how simple it is to make. Hope you love it! If you do, pass it along, would…

 

Easter 2016 Family Updates and Traditions
March 29, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend! We had a great time enjoying some of our family’s favorite traditions and spending time in sunny St. George with our extended family. It was great to get away while the kids were out of school and have some quality family time…

 

Flashback Friday: “He is Risen Rolls” and Easter Bunny Orange Rolls
March 25, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Before Easter was here, I wanted to share with you a couple of my favorite past Easter recipes and traditions I thought you might like. I am all about…

 

Happy St. Patricks Day and get cereal for only $1.10 a box!
March 17, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Happy St. Patricks Day everyone! Did you have your breakfast of champions this morning? The one day a year I don’t feel any guilt eating sugar cereal. I loved every bite, and of course had to sa…

 

Hooray!
February 24, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

Hooray–we are out of the snow, and in sunshine and blue sky! Thanks for letting us take a break over here at Deals to Meals and get some much needed (okay, wanted AND needed) time with family. We are loving every minute of sun, good food, and making some great memories…

 

Valentine’s Desserts: Raspberry Cheesecake, Double Chocolate Bundts, Cherry Chip Brownies & MORE!
February 9, 2016 | No Category | Shandra

How was your weekend? I hope all of you had a great game day weekend. We didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but we had a great time being together and…

 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
December 25, 2015 | No Category | Shandra

From our family to yours, we wish you a very, Merry Christmas! May this holiday season be a time when you can slow down and spend some time with those you love and reflect on our Savior and the true meaning of Christmas. We will be spending time with our family and will be e…

 

4 Favorite Christmas Breakfast Casseroles
December 23, 2015 | No Category | Shandra

Cream Cheese French Bread Casserole What would Christmas morning be without a breakfast casserole? They are super easy to make the night before, throw in the fridge and then bake when you wake up in the morning. By the time you are done opening presents you’ll have a d…

 

Christmas Cranberry Craze! Cranberry Salsa, Cranberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding and More!
December 23, 2015 | No Category | Shandra

What would Christmas be without the sweet and sour flavor of cranberry? Cranberry is one of my favorite holiday flavors. Today I wanted to share with …

 

Annual Charity Bake Sale 2015–A great success!
September 30, 2015 | No Category | Shandra

Another charity bake sale down and we had a RIOT! This has been a tradition in our neighborhood for 4 years now and it is the highlight of my year. It is so fun to see the entire neighborhood come tog…

 

Happy Memorial Day
May 26, 2015 | No Category | Shandra

I am so grateful for all the selfless soldiers and their families who give their lives so valiantly for our freedom. We have so much to be thankful for on this Memorial Day and I hope we all say extra prayers of gratitude for the amazing country we live in. Feeling so blesse…

 

“He is Risen” Rolls and Five SIMPLE Easter Traditions
April 2, 2015 | No Category | Shandra

  Around our house, if things aren’t simple, they just don’t get done. It’s annoying but true. There are days I beat myself up over the fact I am not a ‘Pintrest’ ki…

 

Life Changing Moments
February 12, 2015 | No Category | Shandra

Hi friends! If you haven’t noticed it has been a couple week’s since I last posted on my blog. It’s amazing how life can change in the blink of an eye. For those of you who follow me on instagram, probably have heard about the hard last several days our fam…

 

Merry Christmas!
December 25, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

Merry Christmas everyone! I am so thankful for each of you and all of your support throughout this past year. I truly hope you have a wonderful Christmas and have time to spend with those you love most. I am so thankful for a loving Savior who came to this earth to take upon…

 

8 Tips to Plan and Host a SIMPLE and INEXPENSIVE Christmas Party!
December 3, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

 love to party! I love hosting. I love people and I love having people over to our house. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. However, I am not a cutsie-crafty-pintresty-kind of ga…

 

ABC Gratitude Game
November 26, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2GlPW5TKJfmb1U2MkFPa0x6T00/view?usp=sharing If you want a really simple and fun Thanksgiving game, this Gratitude chart is really fun. Have you played Scattagories before? My kids and I love that game and so we decided to create a holiday ve…

 

Uplifting Messages
October 7, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

Loved this weekend! Such a wonderful few days to sit with my family and enjoy uplifting messages from our church leaders. Here are some of the highlights my children remembered and I loved. We always gather together the Monday after Conference to put together a subway art of…

 

Mom’s Best Meatloaf
September 11, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

Since today is my Mom’s 60th birthday I thought I would post about one of her recipes that is my all-time favorite. This recipe for her meatloaf has been around for a long time and I have to say it’s the best I’ve ever had. Meatloaf is one of those things t…

 

Charity Bake Sale 2014-Best Cinnamon Rolls & Pesto Cheese Rolls
September 5, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

Another fantastic bake sale has come to an end. This is one of my favorite nights of the entire year. Besides the fact that all of the proceeds of our bake sale go to a local family in need, it is so …

 

Back to School Life Savers & Freezer Breakfast Burritos
August 27, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

Welcome to my home! Isn’t it a clean, peaceful place to be?!? Ha! I apologize for not blogging for the past week. You see..we moved into our house over 10 years ago and I decided that as soon as…

 

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
July 24, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

  Here in Utah July 24th is a special holiday. It’s the day we get to pay tribute to our ancestors who went before us and settled this beautiful Salt Lake Valley. I have several ancestors who crossed the Missouri plains through hardships, died along the trail and …

 

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps & My First Half Marathon
June 26, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

  It was nearly a modern day miracle the other night when I made a dinner without any butter or cheese-shocking I know 😉 I have to admit I am slightly addicted to these two ingredients and pro…

 

Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich & Favorite Restaurants in Banff Canada
June 17, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

  I’m sure it’s not a surprise but one of the highlights of our vacation to Canada was the food. Besides the higher prices on food, we were thoroughly impressed with nearly every rest…

 

Pineapple Cream Cheese Cake & a Happy Birthday to Dad!
June 13, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

  I just wanted to say happy 61st birthday to my amazing Dad! I love him so much and am so thankful for all that he has taught me. I feel so blessed to be his daughter and am so grateful to have …

 

“Orange” you glad it’s summer? Adorable end of school gift idea
June 5, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

How cute is this? My sister is watching a couple of our kids while we are out of town this week and this is what she gave my kids after they got home …

 

Cream Cheese Crescent Squares
April 21, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

Since I am completely awful about keeping a journal or scrapbooking, I hope you bear with me as I post a few pictures from our family’s weekend 😉 I hope you had a wonderful Easter as well. Ours was pretty low key but a lot of yummy food, family and fun. We had our a…

 

Chocolate Mint Oreo Cupcakes and St. Patrick’s Day
March 17, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

      Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope the Leprechauns found your homes and brought you something yummy and green..or even better, a pot of gold 😉 Yesterday we were trying to th…

 

We need your prayers!
February 28, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

We need your prayers! https://www.facebook.com/prayersforlexihansen My husbands cousin Lexi Hansen was in an accident yesterday at BYU and is in a coma with severe brain injury. She was hit by a car while she was skateboarding and has less than a 1% chance of survival. Our e…

 

Vacation Updates, Favorite Restaurant in CA & Sugar Cookie Bar Recipe
February 25, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

I have to apologize for being such a slacker blogger lately. I had grand plans of having recipes ready to post before I went on vacation but time seemed to slip away from me. So, I am back home and re…

 

Peanut Butter Cookies & Annual Taste Test
February 20, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

If you have read my blog for awhile you would be familiar with our family’s tradition of our annual taste tests. All of us look forward to this fun part of our trips. This year we were excited to finally figure out which brand makes the best peanut butter. My husband a…

 

Happy Valentines Day!
February 14, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

Happy Valentines Day! Since I can’t give each of you a fresh bunch of flowers for Valentines Day, I thought I would give you a virtual batch 🙂 Walking to the pool yesterday I was amazed at all of the different varieties of flowers here in California. I thought of ou…

 

Lemon Chicken Picatta & 15th Anniversary
January 14, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

  January 2nd is a special day in our family. Fifteen years ago I married my best friend. Celebrating our wedding anniversary around the New Year is such a great way to think about the many wonderful memories of the past year, and the blessing my marriage is to me. I ha…

 

Carribean Quinoa Salad
January 8, 2014 | No Category | Shandra

My name is Shandra and I love food. I think I need to go to a AAA for foodies. I am sure my love for food borders on an addiction. I pretty much eat, drink, sleep food. My job revolves around food, grocery sales, menu plans, food blogs, creating new recipes, teaching cooking…

 

Merry Christmas!
December 25, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Merry Christmas from all of us here at Deals to Meals. We hope each of you are having a wonderful day with family and friends and are filled with the Christmas spirit of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for Christ’s birth and what his life means to me and my family. I fe…

 

Favorite Family Tradition & Fondu Cheese Sauce
December 24, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

I can’t believe I had to make one last shopping trip to Walmart today. It was an absolute zoo!! You could hardly walk down the aisles–what was I thinking?! You would be shocked but I ran o…

 

Thanksgiving Highlights and Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls
December 3, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving week. It is good to be back in a routine again…kids back in school, kitchen finally clean, house quiet, pumpkin pie eaten out of the fridge (I …

 

Restaurant Review: Best Bacon Cheeseburger
October 26, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Last weekend our family spent our fall break in St. George visiting my husband’s brother and his wife. Judi is an amazing long arm quilter and has a blog and website that you will totally love. We love getting together and talking about our website’s and getting …

 

Oatmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup
October 5, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

  This weekend is one of my favorites of the entire year. There are few times when I feel justified to sit on my couch and eat delicious food for two days straight. Our church has what’s called General Conference where the leaders and prophet of our church speak t…

 

Bake Sale Success Take 2
September 24, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Thank you to everyone who supported our annual charity bake sale. For those of you who are new to this tradition, it has become one of my favorite traditions in our neighborhood. Every year we choose a cause or family in our neighborhood who is need of a little love and fina…

 

Annual Taste Test 2013
September 3, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Along with our Iron Chef Competition the children (and adults) always look forward to our annual taste tests. This is where our family chooses one (or several) items we would like to taste test and decide which brand, product or flavor is our favorite. We have done this trad…

 

Creamy Potato Chowder
September 2, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

  For those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know my family and I have a reunion each year in Park City where we do a lot of fun and crazy traditions. With 16 grandchildren, most being under the age of 8, we have to be creative and find ways to keep [……

 

Sugar Ray BBQ Pork Chops & Happy Pioneer Day!
July 24, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

For those of you outside of Utah, you probably are unaware of our Utah holiday we celebrate tomorrow. You see, 166 years ago a group of hot, dirty, tired, hungry, famished, pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley hoping to have a new start. A chance to finally practice their r…

 

Cut your vacation food budget in half
July 20, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Our friends at One Good Thing by Jillee asked me to write a guest post about ways I save money on our vacation food budgets. We are excited to be giving away two FREE membership to Deals to Meals as well as a $50 Walmart gift card to help you with your upcoming vacations. Vi…

 

Peanut Butter Frosting & Birthday Cakes
July 19, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

     (Good thing he is so stinking cute–it makes up for an ugly cake 🙂 Life is funny, isn’t it? When will I learn that if you throw judgement out to the world you will eventually have to eat your words. In this case, it’s birthday cake I&#…

 

Summer Vacations
July 9, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Summer is in full swing and I am sure many of you are planning and having a great time on your summer vacations. Our family just got back from a week in Yellowstone and had a great time, saw a bear, ate lots of great food, walked miles of boardwalk, saw several hot pots, wen…

 

Zucchini Brownies
July 4, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

  Happy Independence Day! I hope you have some fun plans this weekend to be able to celebrate this holiday, and the amazing country we live in. I feel so blessed to live in America. I am grateful for all of the freedoms we enjoy and for all those who have sacrificed so …

 

Butter Lime Corn on the Cob
July 3, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Have you been asked to bring a side dish to your barbeques this weekend? Here are a few of our favorite side dishes that are sure to wow your friends & family!   If you have not tried grilled corn on the cob yet, this will be a must on our holiday menu this week! [&…

 

Fall Off the Bone Baby Back Ribs & Fathers Day Tribute
June 14, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

I am super picky when it comes to ribs.  I want the meat to just fall of the bone, I like them to be sweet and juicy and most of all I don’t want to deal with the sticky mess that they can …

 

Grilled Steak & Parmesan Herb Butter
June 11, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

  We have one week to put together our anticipated Father’s Day Menu and I am excited to share with you some of Ellen’s and my favorite ‘man-food’ recipes. For my husband this would include anything meaty and stick to your ribs goodness. It would…

 

Welcome aboard Ellen!
May 31, 2013 | No Category | Diana Suker

There are times in life when you meet people and you know that somewhere, before this life you were friends. This is how I felt the first time I met my new, dear friend Ellen. I feel so blessed already, to have so many great friends, but I couldn’t have been happier wh…

 

Garden Time!
May 17, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

  I can’t believe it is garden-time already! Could that picture get any cuter? My youngest son cracks me up! It is funny (or should I say sad?) how the older my kids get, the less they want to hang out with me. I knew those days would come but I am sad they seem […

 

Strawberry Cupcakes
May 12, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

    Happy Mothers Day to all of you wonderful women out there! This is a great time of year to take time to give a special thanks to all of the amazing women in our lives who influence us for good, and help us be the people we are today. I know I will […]

 

Hola Amigos!
April 24, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

  So, you may or may not have noticed, but I have been pretty much m.i.a. this past week. For years my husband and I have been saving up to go on a romantic get-away to Cancun and the much anticipated time finally came. We spent this past week in absolute paradise. Our …

 

Happy Easter!
April 1, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

Happy Easter to everyone! This Easter has been a little different than ones in times past. With everything going on with my burn and the care of it, we have spent less time in the kitchen and more time just being together. So, today I don’t have any fabulous recipes fo…

 

Cooking Gone Bad & Hard Life Lessons
March 27, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

 Wow! Where do I begin? These past three days have been a bit of a whirl wind. There are so many thoughts running through my mind that I want to share with you I hope I can get them all out and make sense of them. All I can say is that Sunday was a […]

 

Annual taste test: Tortilla Chips
February 21, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

My family and I just returned from a week vacation to a little city near Palm Springs California called Indio. It is my most favorite trip we take all year because it gets us out of the gray, cold weather of Utah into the sunny, blue skies of California. I can’t tell y…

 

Happy New Year!
January 5, 2013 | No Category | Shandra

It’s a new year and if you are like me, you probably love the feeling of a new, fresh start. There are few things better than putting away all of the Christmas fun, boxing up the Christmas decorations and having an empty house again. I love the clean and organized feel…

 

Favorite Holiday Traditions
December 22, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

   I am sure if you are like me, the traditions of the Christmas season is what makes this time of year so special. When I think back on my childhood, there are very few presents I remember, but there are those family traditions that I will never forget, and I have…

 

Cherry Pecan Cookies
November 9, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

There are moments in life where things happen and you take a step back and realize how precious life is. I feel like most days my life feels like it is on a runaway train. I feel like there is more to do than I will ever have time to accomplish. I think our to-do […]

 

Chicks with Sticks Annual Halloween Party
October 28, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

I know Halloween is nearly over, but I am excited to share one of my favorite Halloween traditions with you. Besides the fact my husband grills over 300 hot dogs Halloween night and we have a fun time hanging out with neighbors and friends, my second favorite Halloween tradi…

 

Mormon Bloggers
October 22, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

(Painting The Lord is My Shepherd by Simon Dewey–one of my favorites!) Over the past four years I have really enjoyed blogging and getting to know many of you as, what I consider, close friends. I have shared many aspects of my life; cooking, recipes, family traditions…

 

Manti Chicken Marinade & Smoritos
June 30, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

    It’s nearly July 4th and for our family that means camping, family bbq’s & lots of roasted marshmallows. I am excited to share two of my favorite recipes to have when camping. I love a good ol’ grilled hot dog every now and then, but when …

 

Cherry Chocolate Brownies and Butterscotch Bars
June 1, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

Thanks to those of you who came and visited our charity bake sale.  We had an absolute blast!  It’s amazing how great service feels.  We were all nothing but smiles, and sometimes tears at how generous and kind people are.  It is a great reminder th…

 

First Annual Charity Bake Sale
May 29, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

We are having our first annual charity bake sale!   A few friends & I took this idea from our friend Jamie and decided this would be a great opportunity for our children to get involved for a good cause.  Our friend in our neighborhood works with an orphanage i…

 

Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas
May 9, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

Mother’s Day is not always my favorite holiday.  You know, the guilt, the expectations…I tend to make the day less than appealing for us all (why are we so hard on ourselves as women??).  However, if I think of MY amazing mother and not the mom I wish I…

 

It’s time to garden!
May 5, 2012 | No Category | Shandra

 (Remember to get the kids involved with your garden!  It teaches many life lessons & the value of hard work. Not to mention they’re cute little fingers planting itty-bitty seeds are so cute..it’s priceless!) I can’t believe it has been a year…

 

Christmas Tradition
January 3, 2012 | No Category | Krista

Have you ever been to Japan?   I HAVE….at least sort of!   Last year we started a tradition where all of the grandchildren that are four or older go on a “vacation” with Grandma Lou and Papi and only one set of parents to supervise. Last year it w…

 

Christmas Memories, Traditions & Recipes
December 27, 2011 | No Category | Shandra

I hope you each of you had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great time together and enjoyed being with family and friends. If you have read our blog for awhile you know I am HUGE into traditions. I think traditions are such an important part of family life. They give stabilit…

 

Quick and Easy Chili
October 28, 2011 | No Category | Shandra

There is one thing we are not lacking in our home, and that is holiday spirit. We may not be great parents in many aspects of life, but thanks to my husband, our home is a place of crazy-fun holiday traditions. The holiday festivities begin the first week in October with our…

 

Garden Rocks
June 21, 2011 | No Category | Shandra

I wanted to share with you a really fun idea my mom came up with for her garden. If you are like me, and you plant a bunch of plants and seeds at the same time it is easy to forget which plants you planted where. I often plant seeds and then as the plant […]

 

My Square Foot Garden Plan-2011
June 10, 2011 | No Category | Shandra

(My garden a month in the making–these plants were planted May 14th) Welcome to my gardening journey. This past month my family and I have spent many hours trying to get our garden plan ready. After learning about square foot gardening we decided this was the direction…

 

Fun family game ideas for your summer get togethers!
June 2, 2011 | No Category | Shandra

How was everone’s Memorial weekend? Here in Utah it was rainy and cold, but we ended up having a wonderful weekend despite the bad weather. This past weekend was a reunion filled few days of fun…

 

Annual Taste-Off: Potato Chips & Ranch Dip
February 19, 2011 | No Category | Krista

It was our annual family trip to CA a week ago, so the tradition of a family taste test lived on once again! This tradition started many years ago and we have taste tested pretty much everything from chocolate milk to macaroni & cheese. Last year we tested chocolate chip…

 

Not about FOOD but it sure is FUN! Homemade Pillowcases
February 18, 2011 | No Category | Krista

Lately, I have really enjoyed my small sewing projects. I had previously posted about the Happy Birthday banner, chaircover and placemat. It seems many of you were interested and excited about this id…

 

Homemade Birthday Banners and Placemat
January 28, 2011 | No Category | Krista

I realize the majority of our posts are about food, which I love! However, my next favorite thing in life are sewing projects. For no other reason than to ignite your own creativity I am posting about my most recent projects; a birthday banner, a birthday chair cover and a b…

 

Iron Chef Competition–here we come!!
September 3, 2010 | No Category | Shandra

I am a HUGE Food Network junkie and have always dreamed of being in a food competition. Well, yesterday I had my shot! Well, almost. We stayed the week in the Marriott in Park City and one of their activities during the week was an Iron Chef competition. Our family LOVES to …

 

Camping and Vacation Meal Planner
July 24, 2010 | No Category | Shandra

Dirt, smores, pot guts, sleepless nights, laughs, truth or dare, campfires, hot dogs, mofia, sunsets, pine trees, hikes, dutch oven breakfast, flat air mattresses, mosquito bites, and FUN. What do all of these things spell? SUMMER & CAMPING Thanks to my cute husband and …

 

Family Update: Blake is born
June 17, 2010 | No Category | Diana Suker

Our sweet “little” (or not so little) baby has arrived! Baby boy Blake arrived yesterday at 3:45pm weighing in at 9lbs 2 oz…He is another CHUBBY baby!

 

Introduction of Diana and Krista…
June 11, 2010 | No Category | Krista

I am excited to introduce two of my sisters who have been a great support and help for me and my company. Deals to Meals wouldn’t be here without their help! They will be contributing to my blog each week with interesting, helpful and delicious tips, so I wanted to int…

 

Birthdays, boys, and balls!
May 20, 2010 | No Category | Shandra

May is the birthday month in our family. We have 8 birthdays within a one week period in our family. We tried in the beginning to have individual birthday parties for each cousin, but that didn’t last very long. It was non stop birthday parties until we realized it was…

 

Thankful for many things!
May 16, 2010 | No Category | Shandra

(The oceans, lakes, wharfs, and harbors were breathtaking!) (Paul Revere’s statue across from the Old North Church–yes, I look (and feel) like I am about to POP!)(The graveside of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and many others who served in the American…

 

Green Pizzas, Green Cookies & Green FUN
March 22, 2010 | No Category | Shandra

(We even died the alfredo sauce green for our white sauce pizzas-yum!)I know, St. Patricks Day is over, and I am a SLOW blogger! However, I wanted to share our fun idea this year that we did. Last year I made green mashed potatoes, rolls, etc., but this year we wanted to hav…

 

Happy New Year!
December 31, 2009 | No Category | Shandra

What are your family’s traditions for New Year’s Eve? Our activities are not always the same, but they ALWAYS involve having delicious appetizers! One of our favorite family get together/party ideas is to have everyone bring their favorite appetizers for dinner. …

 

Last minute Christmas gift ideas
December 19, 2009 | No Category | Shandra

Many of us are looking for those last minute gift ideas to give family and friends. Why not give them a gift that will be practical and useful for the upcoming year. Here are a few gift ideas that are UNDER $20 that make great gifts or stocking stuffers: Under $10**Gift cert…

 

Christmas Tradition
November 17, 2009 | No Category | Shandra

How many of you get overwhelmed by the daunting task of doing neighborhood Christmas gifts? I remember a few years back needing to put together over 30 gifts for neighbors. Keeping track of who brought what, and what I brought people, became a time consuming part of the holi…

 

Homemade Aprons
October 2, 2009 | No Category | Shandra

Are you so proud, I found a hobby that is better for my waistline than cooking! Cooking is by far my favorite hobby, but next to that, it would have to be sewing. My friend found these DARLING patterns for retro aprons (from Hobby Lobby) that will make anyone want to spend m…

 

Build your own food storage shelves
September 8, 2009 | No Category | Shandra

Here are some quick facts about the food storage shelves my fabulous hubby built in our basement. Our storage room is not very big, but thanks to his great shelves, it actually fits a lot! Having a ‘food storage room’ really helps makes rotating and using your fo…

 

Family, Food, & Fun!
March 9, 2009 | No Category | Shandra

This is basically our family’s motto! We have an awesome family, who LOVES cooking, eating and having fun together! We are known for our ‘family reunions’ once a week where we all get together (19 & growing) and make a BIG meal, visit, and enjoy being …

 

Life's Lessons
October 17, 2008 | No Category | Shandra

I don’t know about you, but the last few weeks of economic uncertainty have had me ponder more deeply on the affairs of my family-economically, spiritually, financially. I was reading online an article written by Glenn Beck and thought it had some good advice in it on …

 

A Family Tradition
July 20, 2008 | No Category | Shandra

To many people the idea of having a ‘store’ in your basement is quite foreign. For me, it has been a family tradition. I was at my cute Grandpa’s house the other day and he was proudly showing me his very large and VERY organized storage room. I thought it …

11 Healthy, Creative and FUN Home School Lunch Ideas

Hi Friends! Do we have a treat for you? My dear friend Ellen Johnson has put together 11 of the most adorable, healthy, creative, delicious and FUN home lunch ideas you’ll ever see! She taught a class for some ladies in our neighborhood and we were all speechless at how cute these ideas are. Not many of us, besides Ellen, would make lunches to this caliber every day, but use some of these ideas as a spring board for your children’s lunches. Let’s be serious, what adult wouldn’t love these lunches too? 

Ellen uses a few, inexpensive tools to help make these lunches EXTRA fun! Best part about these tools are you buy them once and you are set for many years to come. I have linked them to Amazon so you can quickly add them to your cart if you’re interested.  I think it’s these small details that will really ‘wow’ your kiddos. Keep all of these pictures of the lunches on a small key ring so your children can look through their options and decide which ones they would like each week. You can then use Deals to Meals to help you know where the best prices are on all of your lunch favorites. Here is the link for the wallet sized images to be printed.

Not all bento boxes are created equal. Pull up bento boxes and Amazon and you’ll get lost in the pages of options. We have simplified your search to some of the highest rated and inexpensive options for your family. Ellen has high taste, but she has used her Planet Box trays for all of her children and they are still awesome. They also come with a carrying case which is great. However, choose the bento box that works best for your budget and children. Below are some options from $9.99-$79.95. 

Highest quality and Ellen’s favorite: Planet Box Rover Bento Box $79.95 (will last you forever and has a carrying case!)

Under $30 Option: Bentgo Kids Children’s Lunchboxes and Container $27.99

Under $20 Option: Fit and Fresh Bento Box $19.99

Under $10 Option: Bentgo Kids Tray with Lid $9.99

#1 Penguin & Peanut Butter Palooza

Whole carrots cut into penguin shapes with these 6 piece animal vegetable cutters, ranch died with blue food coloring and put into these 2 oz. disposable food containers (comes in a 125 pk. which is awesome), veggie straws, strawberries drizzled with chocolate and sprinkles, small treat and a peanut butter honey sandwich punched with these heart shape cutters

#2 Heavenly Hummus

Hummus cups, sliced carrots and celery, small treat, candied nuts, fresh fruit and pita bread cut into strips. 

#3: Greek Chicken and Tzatziki 

Grilled or boiled chicken cut into slices, feta cheese, cut up cucumbers, pita bread slices, Tzatziki sauce, grape tomatoes, small treat. 

#4 Chicken Salad Wraps

Chicken Salad Sandwiches or Wraps, banana written on with edible markers, small treat, clementines, veggie chips

#5 Sushi 

Wrapped Sushi Rolls (buy the seaweed wraps, microwave some sticky rice, add sliced cucumbers, cream cheese and roll up. Dip in wasabi, soy sauce and ginger. Add some Asian candies, treats or Hi-Chews

#6 Tortellini Extravaganza

Boiled and cooked tortellini or ravioli (Costco’s is great), sliced basil, shredded cheese, pepper shapes (cut with these 5 shape kit for $5.95), marinara sauce in disposable container, fresh broccoli, fruit, pita bread strips and small treat.  

#7 Children’s ‘Beary’ Favorite

Peanut Butter and jam sandwich punched with this cute bear design, pirates bootie (healthier than chips), Peanut Butter Protein Balls, fresh fruit or veggies and small treat. 

#8 Harvest Happy Meal

Mickey Mouse Veggie Chips, boiled egg pressed with Yunko Egg Design Press (set of 6 for $7.99), apple cut in pieces of in half and filled with peanut butter and a gummy worm, fresh fruit and a small treat. 

#9 Bruschetta 

Crackers or small bruschetta bread, sliced fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and pesto in small containers

#10 Tic Tac Toe, Here We Go!

Spread some peanut butter and bananas in between two slices of bread. Put them together and cut off the sides and crust. Cut the bread into 9 equal squares. Place some chocolate chips into a ziploc bag and microwave for 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted. Clip off the edge of the bag and drizzle X’s and O’s on the pieces of bread. Add to this lunch a string cheese, popcorn, veggie and fruit died animal crackers and a small treat.  

#11 Yogurt Parfait

Greek yogurt mixed with some chia seeds, granola, fresh fruit, small treat. 

Weekend WrapUp

Had a fabulous week this week! Celebrated Todd’s second half of his birthday with an outdoor Sundance Theater Play of Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. Had a surprise guess showing of David Osmond which was fun! Went on a date with friends to Parade of Homes (and found my dream backyard with a pool!), went to R&R BBQ twice (yep…our favorite!), played with a neighbors brand new, adorable puppy, played more boardgames from my childhood (a bonus of living with my parents), my kiddos went to Herriman’s Enduro Challenge, and we had a fun Mom-Kid date to Trafalga, the park and pizza. All in all, it was an awesome week.

Spent Saturday night and Sunday with two of the sweetest, humble, amazing people from Puerto Rico, Elder Hugo Martinez and his wife. It was our church’s semi-annual Stake Conference where the members of our church in our area gather to worship, sing and enjoy being together. There were so many messages that really touched my heart and were answers to my prayers. It was a treat to be able to spend time with the Martinez family and get to feel of their love of our Savior and the members in our area. It was a highlight of our week and a weekend I’ll never forget. 

Easiest Summer Birthday Cake: Campfire Chocolate Marshmallow Cake

I was looking through my files and came across a cake picture that I forgot to share with you from last year. This cake is so stinking cute and would be perfect for any end of summer gatherings, or summer birthday parties. Buy the ‘death by chocolate’ Costco cake, add a few pirouette cookies, some roasted marshmallows and some candied ‘fire’ and you have a cake that not only looks gourmet, but tastes like it too. Of course you can make your own cake, but if you’re in a pinch for time, this cake works perfectly! I hope you are having a wonderful summer. 

*Check out the method to making this easy cake HERE

Todd’s 40th Birthday Shenanigans

Hey friends! Hope you had a great weekend. We had a wonderful time celebrating Todd’s BIG 40th birthday. We had lots of friends, food and fun! And of course we had WAY too many hot dogs and peanut butter chocolate treats in honor of T-Dawg 😉 So grateful for amazing friends and family who helped us celebrate and make it a special weekend. Sure love you Todd! 

Can you believe that Hot Dog Quilt? My Sister in Law Judi designed and quilted it. It was the best surprise ever! Check out Judi’s blog, She is one talented, awesome lady!! 

Moving Weekend–Feeling so Grateful

This past week has been so difficult. I’ve heard moving can be as traumatizing as a death or divorce. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it is interesting how you have to go through a grieving process. I know this has only begun and there will be more tears to come, but it sure has been an emotional week. Leaving a home we have become a family in, raised our 5 kids for the past 14 years, and loved our neighbors and friends so much, has been so difficult. Every room, every place in our home has been filled with such wonderful memories. Not all have been easy (obviously), but they have combined to create a home that will always have a special place in my heart. 

We have felt so grateful for everyone’s willingness to help (yep, that’s my sweet friend Lila cleaning my shower). And Amber & Amanda..you know you’re amazing for cleaning our toilets…AGAIN! My friends are saints. We had so much help we were even able to escape and run the Provo river Saturday as a bonus! We truly live in the most supportive, amazing neighborhood there ever could be. Couldn’t be more thankful tonight for all of the God’s tender mercies and ways he has shown us He loves us. This entire process has been filled with much prayer and I’m grateful for the peace we have felt as we’ve tried to do his will. Not sure what adventures will follow, but we’re excited to meet new people, continue strong friendships and find ways to serve in our new area. Grateful there is  God in heaven who watches out for us and will guide our families if we’re wiling to listen to his direction. 

5 Favorite Camping Meals to Simplify Your Summer (So easy your kids can make them!)

This post is probably coming a little too late, but in case you have a trip planned later this summer, I wanted to share a few tips to make camping easy (and delicious)! My husband and I are big fans of camping. We love to get away and spend some quiet time with the family in the beauty of nature. Whether we are camping, or even on an extended stay in a hotel, there are a few meals I never leave home without. 

These meals are so simple, even a kid can make them! My son Isaac loved turning on the stove each night to warm up our dinner. With just a little forethought, you can make camping a breeze!

BREAKFAST

Breakfast and lunch have become simplified over the years for our family. I used to make big, homemade breakfasts. I have to admit I have become a little lazy over the years and we now only have cereal, yogurt and granola, or bagels with fruit. These meals are super simple and allows us to not have to clean any dishes–which is a bonus!

However, my sister did make these Overnight Oatmeal Jars which were super yummy and would be easy to make ahead of time. These jars can be made a few days in advance and will be ready to eat when you need. All you do is add regular oats in a jar, some fresh fruit, real maple syrup, dash of salt and almond milk and lightly shake. Keep these jars in the fridge overnight (or for 1-2 days) and then serve with a little more almond milk as desired. You can play around with any flavors you’d like–add some chocolate protein powder, some coconut, chocolate chips and bananas for a chocolate version. Add some pumpkin and cinnamon for a fall flair. The options are limitless. 

LUNCH

Lunch is even easier, we only do sandwiches. Bring a healthy portion of bread, lunch meat, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and condiments and you’re set for days 😉 Nothing fancy, just easy to throw together in a hurry. 

DINNER

Dinner is my favorite meal while camping. Don’t you think everything just tastes better up in the mountains? Maybe it’s just me, but I LOVE meal time while camping. It makes me happy!

Here are the five meals we ALWAYS eat when we’re camping. I’ve become so accustomed to it that I don’t even think anymore. The week or two before we go camping I double these recipes and freeze half of them to enjoy while away. These are some of our family’s favorites, easy recipes and I hope you enjoy them too!

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Who doesn’t love these? They are great for lunch or dinner, whichever you need. In fact, I usually make a huge bowl  of this so we can enjoy them for a simple dinner (usually the first day when we’re setting up) and for lunch the next day. 

Mexican Tacos with Black Beans and Corn

The thing I love about these tacos is they can feed an army! With the black beans and corn added to the meat, this meal can be stretched to feed several people. I love to make extra of this taco meat and use for a taco salad for an easy lunch. There is nothing easier than tacos when camping. Shred some lettuce, dice some tomatoes, serve with shredded cheese and away you go! If you like double decker tacos, warm some refried beans and serve some beans in between a flour and hard shell taco.  Your family will be filled and happy before you know it!

Shredded BBQ Chicken or Pork Sandwiches

Can’t get easier than this recipe. Throw some chicken or pork in a slow cooker and let the machine do the work. After serveral hours drain off the excess juices and shred the meat. Add BBQ sauce before you pack the meat, or serve it on the side once you’ve warmed the meat up at camp. For a little gourmet flair, add some sliced avocado and some chipotle mayo (shown above). Serve these sandwiches with baked beans, watermelon and chips. Easy-peasy and super yummy!

Tangy Sloppy Joes

What’s more American than a sloppy joe? The best part about these, is when I make up a big batch of taco meat, I double the ground beef and use the other half for the sloppy joes. The base is the same of an onion and ground beef (or turkey), so it makes these two recipes easy to make at the same time. Once the meat is ground, I put half of the meat in a second pan and turn that into sloppy joes. I love my Mom’s original recipe for sloppy joes. They are a little tangy, spicy and sweet. The perfect combo, if you ask me!

Hot Dog or Hamburger Barbecue (or Healthier Salad Option)

My husband and kids love hot dogs and their camping trip wouldn’t be complete without that as a meal. I on the other hand, like a little healthier option of a homemade salad. I usually plan a nice salad as a side dish to the hot dogs then we both are happy. We have too many delicious salad recipes to mention, so just search ‘salad’ and you’ll have plenty to choose from. Want a fun twist for your hot dogs? Give these Hawaiian Polish Dogs a try. They are so good even I would like them 🙂 

I hope these meals will help you with your next camping trip or vacation. If you have any favorite meals you like to make, I’d love to hear about them 🙂 Leave us a comment and give us some more ideas!

Bear Lake Highlights–Favorite Summer Gadget and Fun Kid Game

Summer wouldn’t be complete without our family reunion in Bear Lake Utah. We have been going here since I was a young girl and it is one of my very happiest places on earth. The water is so blue, clear, sandy beaches, great places to eat, I get to spend several days with my amazing Grandma and family, and we do nothing other than relax and play. It is summer heaven! Yep, that’s my 90 year old grandma building a sand castle. How cool is she?!
This year was extra wonderful because we got to take a break from packing our home and getting ready to move. (Yep, moving is the pits ;/)  It was so nice to relax and not think about moving for a minute. We are home now, and reality is hitting, which makes me want to ball my eyes out. For a few days though, Bear Lake was a much needed summer retreat. 

I couldn’t let the summer go by without sharing our ALL TIME FAVORITE SUMMER GADGET! Many years ago my husband bought a portable projector and we have had SO much fun with it! We take this camping, have outdoor movie nights, use for our annual neighborhood BBQ and much more. It really is such a fun gadget to have for your summer activities. There are many types of projectors, but we have found the Brookstone Prjoector is our absolute favorite. If you want to give a gift that your friends or family will LOVE for years to come, this is the gift for you! 

Besides relaxing, swimming and playing on the wave runner, we are all about games and fun! One afternoon I was on ‘keep the kids occupied duty’ while the others parent could nap. After an hour, I was out of ideas and decided to see if we could play ‘Don’t Eat Pete’ in real life. It ended up being a huge hit, so I wanted to share it with you.

Here’s how we played: We lined up the kids in three rows of three (9 total..but you could play with more or less). We had one child leave the area while we decided who was ‘Pete’. We then gave each of the kids a Skittle (or any small candy would do) and then we had the child come back to the game. They then asked each child (one at a time) if they were Pete. If the child wasn’t the designated ‘Pete’, then they got to give their candy to the child guessing. They continued until they chose ‘Pete’. When they chose Pete, the kids all yelled, “Don’t Eat Pete!” and that child got to eat their candy they were holding. We played this for well over an hour and had a great time. All you need is kids and some cheap, small candy and you have a game that will keep kids happy for a long while. 
Grateful to Todd and my Mom who never let us miss an opportunity to learn something. They took us on a tour of an old tabernacle building in Paris, Idaho. It was built in 1888 and ended up being really quite incredible. Amazing what the early pioneers created so many years ago. Despite the whining from a few kids who didn’t want to go on a tour, it was a nice break from the water. 

Look at all these boys! We have 13 boy cousins in our clan, and it is a RIOT when we all get together. We really hardly see our boys. They live in happy-boy-creative-cousin land and it is the BEST! It allows us sisters for lots of chatting time, which we all love!I hope you are having a wonderful summer too! I am sorry for my lack of blogging lately. Give me a week and we will be settled in our rental apartment and I will be back to blogging on a regular basis. I am ready for life to be ‘normal’ again and to spend some more time in the kitchen. I miss cooking and will be excited to share some new recipes with you! 

 

#HisDay Foundation of Christ

While camping up in Bear Lake this week we had the awesome opportunity of being at church with an apostle from our church, Elder Quinton L. Cook. We didn’t know he’d be there, but we ended up being on the second row and were able to hear Him bear his testimony of Jesus Christ. It was such a powerful, spiritual experience. We then sang one of my favorite Hymns, How Firm a Foundation. The spirit filled the room and it was such a neat experience to be there with my family and hear him. Such a special Sabbath! 

“Our faith in Jesus Christ is the essential foundation for our eternal salvation and exaltation. As Helaman taught his sons, “Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation…, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall. ”

~Elder Cook

#His Day: Stay in the Boat and Stay Centered on Christ

The other weekend my family and I did one of our favorite summer activities. We LOVE to raft down the Provo river. This river isn’t a very aggressive river, but it is the perfect speed for lots of kids and is a great way to cool off in the heat of summer. I love everything about this activity and am so thankful for such a great family to enjoy the beauty of God’s creations with.

As we were rafting down the river, I started thinking about how life is kind of like rafting down a river. My favorite place to sit on the raft is at the very front, center of the raft. I love to dangle my feet over the raft and feel like it’s the best place to steer and direct the raft. As the person at the front of the boat, it is my job to try and keep the raft centered down the river. With the rapids, it is easy for the boat to get off centered from the banks of the river if I am not constantly rowing on either side of the boat. Even on those spots where the rapids aren’t intense, if you get side tracked for even a few seconds, your raft can quickly become off centered and you can be thrown to the sides of the river before you know it.

I started thinking about how keeping your raft centered is just like keeping your family centered on our Savior, Jesus Christ. There are so many distractions in life that try and distract us from keeping our lives centered on the things that matter most. It is so easy to ‘put our oars down’, lose sight of our goals and get quickly off course. I started thinking about how that is in my own life. I feel many times like I am pulled in so many directions it is hard to keep my family always looking forward and focused on Christ. With one more month of summer, and our move coming to a close, I am recommitted to making sure my family keeps doing those things that will keep our lives focused on God. 

Summer can be an easy time to ‘jump out of the raft’ and fill our days with things that don’t really matter most. Although we all need a break from the mundane things in life, I have found our family works so much better when we’re doing the small, yet important things, that keep us close to God. Things like family scripture study, family prayer and attending our church meetings are the small things that seem to make the biggest difference. 

I hope you are having an amazingly fun, yet Christ-centered summer. I loved this quote from Brigham Young when he said,

“We are on the old ship Zion. … [God] is at the helm and will stay there. … All is right, sing Hallelujah, for the Lord is here. He dictates, guides and directs. If the people will have implicit confidence in their God, never forsake their covenants nor their God, He will guide us right.”

May God bless you and your families this summer. 

~Shandra

*Need a quick Sabbath talk to read, check out this one titled Stay in The Boat by M. Russel Ballard. It’s a favorite 😉

Thursday Tip: Salad Dressings and Seasonings on the Go

Now that vacation time is in full swing, I wanted to share a simple tip that makes eating on the go a little easier and inexpensive. When our family travels, I try and find places to stay that allow us to cook as many meals in the hotel (or condo) as possible. With a little planning, you can make delicious meals on the go as well.

 

When I’m planning food for a family trip, I like to make sure I have plenty of seasonings to make all of my favorite recipes. You can pack the big spice containers, or you can do what I do and place a tablespoon or so of the seasonings I need into small, ziploc bags. If I know a recipe needs a couple teaspoons of cumin, I’ll pre measure it and put it in the baggie. Same with any other spices I know I will need for the meals I’m going to make.

Another trick I love, is to pre measure the seasonings I need for particular recipes. For example, if I know I will be making a poppyseed dressing, I will pre measure the seasonings and place them all in a ziploc bag. I then pre measure out the wet ingredients and place those in a sealed tupperware. When it’s time to make the dressing, all I need to do is combine a couple things and we’re set! Yes, I could just buy store bought dressing, but that’s kind of against my food snobbery problem 😉 

With a little planning, you can save some big money on your vacations with a little extra prep work. Hope your upcoming trips are a success! 

Father’s Day Sweet Treats (Oreo-style)

It’s almost Father’s Day and that means every kind of snack, chip, cookie or treat is on sale this week. The Dad’s in our life must be known for having a sweet tooth! This is one of the only times a year that Oreo cookies go on sale for less than Costco. If you are an Oreo fan, or if the Father’s in your life love Oreo’s, this is the week to stock up. I’m sure Oreos will last a while in food storage, right? That is, if I don’t eat them first!

Watch for Oreo cookies to go on sale close to $2 to $2.50 a package. That’s a great deal and the time to make all of these amazing Oreo desserts! Looking for a sweet treat to make your Dad this week? I rounded up my favorite Oreo desserts from some of my favorite food blogs to share with you today. Thanks Mell, Deborah and Jamie for sharing these incredible recipes with us today! 

Deals to Meals Peanut Butter Oreo Brownies

Deals to Meals Homemade Oreo Cookies

Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Oreo Cheesecake Bites

Jamie’s Oreo Cookies and Cream Cookies

Jamie’s Oreo Turtle Bars

Favorite Family Recipes Winger’s Asphault Pie

Deals to Meals Oreo Raspberry Cheesecake

Taste and Tell Oreo Cherry Cheesecake Bites

 

It’s true–we are moving! Our home is for sale, check it out!

Typing this post has been several months in the making. I am still in denial that my family is moving. After 14 amazing, blissful, wonderful years in this home, it is time for a new adventure. I am not one who loves change. In fact, I HATE change! I planned to live in this home until someone sent me kicking and screaming to a rest home. For years my husband and I have wanted to move and buy some land to have animals (yep…chickens, a pig, cows, dogs, etc.). It never felt right until we had an opportunity to buy some land not far from our home. After MUCH fasting and prayer, we feel it is the right step for our family.

So…the Madsen clan will soon be mini farmers in the mountains of Herriman. How crazy is that?!? We signed on our land this week and will soon be building a home (much like this one because I LOVE everything about it!) and will be starting a new adventure. We built both of our last two homes, so my husband is excited to be the general contractor again. It will take well over a year, so we’re excited to stay close by and keep our life as normal as possible for awhile 😉 

To all of our friends and dear neighbors, please know we love you! Our friendships are eternal and we wouldn’t be leaving if we didn’t know it was the right thing for our family. Our love for you will not change just because our address will. I’m so grateful for the spirit and revelation that allows us to know what is best for our family. I think we’ll not know why it was time to move for many years to come. We are just having faith it is the Lord’s plan and going from there. As hard as that is (yep, I’ve cried lots already!).

Now, let’s talk about this home that I love with all of my heart. If you, or anyone you know, is looking for the most beautiful home in Herriman—you need to check out our

HOUSE BLOG!

I have every inch of our home on this blog to help interested buyers have a detailed look at our home. If you are interested in our home, please call my husband at 801-979-0052. YES, we are selling our home ourselves. Although we have many friends and family who would be amazing realtors, we are giving it a go ourselves (if you are a realtor…please don’t call us!). 

The best part about our home is all of the upgrades. In the past couple months we have literally replaced nearly every inch of the 4145 square feet of flooring, repainted the entire house (top and bottom), replaced light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, ceiling fans and MUCH more! There is brand new carpet throughout the house as of 2 weeks ago. Our home smells brand new and looks like it’s been completely redone. 

My husband is OBSESSED with upgrades. Our home is a smart home from top to bottom. Everything is programmed through a phone, it’s all digital and state of the art. Every closet, storage and room in our home was designed and planned by my husband. Todd is amazing at detail and has not left one stone unturned. You will be amazed at the thought and details that are in our home that you wouldn’t even think about! Check out the blog for all of the specs. 

For anyone that’s read this blog for awhile, knows I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to cook! My kitchen is the heart of our home. I love everything about my kitchen. In fact, I love it so much, our new home will have nearly the exact same layout. It’s spacious, easy to entertain in, perfect food prepping bar and so much storage you won’t know what to do with it! After 14 years I still have empty shelves in my kitchen.

Besides the kitchen, our other favorite room in the house (besides the game room downstairs) is the HUGE theater room. You’ve probably seen the pictures of our many, many parties in this room. We have had over 50 people in this room before! It is the most amazing room for entertaining or watching movies. The projector and framed screen will be sold with the home. You will never have to go to the movies again!! 

Really, I could go on and on about our home but I’ll save that for those who want to take a look at the blog. If you are looking for a home in a safe, quiet cul-de-sac, in a beautiful neighborhood in Herriman Utah, this is the home for you! Text us (801-979-0052) if you have any questions. We are excited to see who God has planned to continue to live in our home. We know it will be a special family that we can’t wait to meet! 

Love you Silver Rose Circle!!

Trek 2017: What is our Sacrifice?

Pioneer Trek 2017 was the BEST!! This past weekend was one of the most amazing and spiritual experiences of my life. I am a changed person and I will be forever grateful for this sacred opportunity we had. Todd and I, my three teenagers, and 465 other youth and adults headed out to windy Wyoming to walk for 20 miles in honor of our Mormon pioneer ancestors. One might wonder why nearly 500 people would want to leave the comforts of their home, wear hideous pioneer clothing (those poor women!) and trek through the dust, wind and dirt for three straight days in burning hot sun. And, did I mention WALK? And push a cart?!? 

Although to some it might seem like it was a waste of time, there is something powerful that happens when you remember those who came before you. I am so grateful for past ancestors who sacrificed so much so that I could have the life I enjoy today. They lost their lives, their family’s, their homes and every comfort you could imagine to set off for thousands of miles to a new land. Why did they do it? They did it because of their belief in God. Their conviction in what they believed meant more to them than any earthly possession.

 

One of my favorite moments on the trail was watching a sweet 16 year old boy named Conner (the one on the right side of this picture with a bandana around his neck). He is blind and walked the entire 20 miles with nothing but a smile on his face. On trek the youth are put into groups of 10 kids with a ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ that many of them have never met before. It’s so neat to see them learn to love each other as if they are a real family in just three days.

My daughter had the privilege of being in a family with this amazing young man Conner. For 20 miles, Conner would walk along the trail holding someones hand or arm to keep him safe. The trail was extremely rocky at times, had large badger holes along the trail, was muddy, filled with cow pies and extremely windy. Despite all of these trials of the trail, Conner was nothing but happy and positive the entire time! He was an inspiration to all of us. There was a time his family was playing a game and would put Conner’s hand in someone elses in his group for him to guess who it was (each youth in their family would take turns walking Conner along the trail). For some of them it would take awhile for Conner to figure out who was holding his hand. It wasn’t until his Pa put his hand in Conners that Conner exclaimed with excitement “Pa, I know it’s you! I love you Pa!”.  When he said this the spirit touched me and I had the thought that we all are like Conner in this life. We can’t ‘see’ our Heavenly Father but if we listen and take time to know Him, we will know when He is with us along our trail of life. There are times in life when things feel all uphill. We might even feel like we have fallen into a big badger whole. But if we have faith and learn to ‘walk with God’, He will guide us and help us back home. 

The pioneer sacrifices are such great reminders to me of how I want to live my life. I want to live my life in a way that no matter what comes, I will never deny my knowledge and love for my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know they live. I know Christ sacrificed for us so we can rely on Him through our good days, as well as our bad. He is everything to me and I’m grateful for all the people who came before me who showed through their example their love of Christ. I add my testimony and witness with theirs that I know God lives. I pray we each can live in a way that hundreds of years from now we will have those we love look back and be inspired by the way we lived our lives.  

Puff Pastry Apple Roses

If you’re a fan of scanning Pintrest for delicious recipes, you’ve probably no doubt seen these Puff Pastry Apple Roses. They are literally everywhere online lately! These make the  sweetest, most delicate dessert for any wedding shower, baby shower or ladies lunch you have upcoming. The best part about them is they are really not hard to make. Despite their intricate design, it is nothing more than slicing apples and rolling them up in pastry dough. Three ingredients and you’re done! How fun is that? 

For this recipe, I used the talented Sherri’s recipe from To Simply Inspire. Her method I liked the best and hope you enjoy making these too! Thanks Sheri 😉

#HisDay: Friends and Family

For thirteen years we have lived across the street from one of the most darling families you could ever imagine. From the first time I met them, we knew we were kindred spirits and they quickly became family. These past couple months as we’ve helped them move, it’s given me a chance to think about how grateful I am for the people who have been placed in my life.  I love this quote about family that helps you realize that you don’t have to be blood related to be family. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who have made my life better and helped me be a better person–and are truly my family.

There are people you meet in your life that you know were put there for a reason.  The Carter family is one of those for me. I have loved these Carter kids as if they were my own. I have to apologize to my girls that when they come over, I kind of monopolize on their friend time because I want to hang out with them too. They are some of the most amazing, faithful young women you will ever meet. I am so proud of them and their desire to stay close to God and put Him first in their life–no matter what is happening around them. 

A friend sent this quote that I thought perfectly describes how I feel about God putting people in our life in just the way he knows will be a blessing to us.

“The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well.”

~Elder Neal Maxwell

Wanted to send a HUGE thank you to the over 50 people who came to help with their move yesterday. After 16 hours of moving, it all was done and we were so grateful for everyone taking time out of their busy holiday weekend to help. We truly live amongst some of the most amazing people around! Love you all!!

5 Ways to Create Your Perfect Day

It’s Tuesday and that means I get to introduce you to another one of our amazing contributors on this blog. These women are so talented and I can’t wait for you to get to know them better as time goes on. Brittany Jones is no exception! I have known Brittany for along time and have learned so much from her. She is one of the most ‘on the ball’ women I know. Not only is she an amazing organizer, designer, fashion-guru, but she is an amazing mother and wife. She is raising four boys and doing fantastic at that! Despite the fact Brittany wears high heels to school functions (yeah, I’m just happy to not be in my sweats), she is completely down to earth and real about life. Watch for many more tips, tricks and advice coming from Brittany in the near future. You’re going to love her, just like I do! Take it away Brittany…

 

At the end of another long day, I crash into bed exhausted. My eyes fall shut while my mind rehearses the list of things I didn’t accomplish throughout the day. Dishes left in the sink, toys scattered everywhere, an email unsent and children neglected. As my thoughts slow down to let sleep take over I remember the laundry sitting in the washer.

I promise myself tomorrow will be better as I drift off to sleep thinking about how I need to read to my 5-year old more often. Then I wake up to go through the same chaos over again.

I know I’m not the only mom who feels this way.

“Time controls us and we begin living days instead of making days come alive.” As I read this line by Linda Eyre in her book, A Joyful Mother of Children. I felt hope that I could change the mundane days to magical.

When I first read this quote 6 years ago I decided to make some simple changes.

1. Evaluate

Ask yourself what needs to be accomplished so you don’t feel guilty at the end of the day. Create a mission statement with clear priorities. In Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, he explains, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution.”

McKeown also shares, “we can live a life by design, not by default.” Think about specific things you need to happen each day to bring you peace and joy at the end of the day instead of stress and overwhelm.

2. Write it down

Once you understand your priorities, write them down. For me, these are simple things like, brush teeth, say prayers, read scriptures and get ready. In evaluating my priorities I realize making a hot breakfast is not as important to me as scripture study so I add scripture study to my checklist, but not breakfast. I write down only the most essential items I need to do each day. I love having a chart I can check off each activity as it’s done. This helps me feel a sense of accomplishment.

3. Get your family involved

After making a checklist for myself, I realized this is an effective method for my children. I keep a list of the essential things I want my children to accomplish each day. We share our lists with each other so we can all work together. Seeing my children as teammates instead of opponents has been crucial to the creation of a perfect day in our home.  Here is the CHORE CHART I use for my kids. Hope it’s helpful for you too 😉

4. Strive for 80%

Once you have evaluated priorities, written them down and shared them with your family it’s time to get started actually doing the work. This part can easily get you down. If you neglect to do something one day it is easy to feel discouraged. I always strive for an 80%
success rate. Sure, we’d all love to get 100% of the things on our list accomplished, but this is never reasonable. When I strive for 80% I’m okay when I can’t get to a couple things on my chart each day. Our perfect day is a guideline not a set of rules.

Anna Quindlen says, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

5. Reevaluate often

I reevaluate my chart each week. Often times my perfect day changes based on different seasons in my life. If there is something I’m not accomplishing day after day, I take time to ask myself why this keeps happening. In Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she explains, “Whether we’re overcoming adversity, surviving trauma or dealing with stress and anxiety, having a sense of purpose, meaning and perspective in our lives allows us to develop understanding and move forward.” It’s so important to constantly evaluate why we do what we do each day. Our goal is to always be improving. Reevaluating our daily tasks is crucial to not only creating the perfect day, but the perfect life.

I now lay my head on my pillow and fall fast asleep. I know the most important things have been done. I love having clear priorities and a simple chart that helps me accomplish these tasks each day.

~Brittany Jones

Deals to Meals Contributor

#HisDay: Each Life That Touches Ours for Good

One of my favorite Hymns from church is a song titled, Each Life That Touches Ours for Good. I have been thinking about this song this past weekend and all of those beautiful people who have touched my life for good. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by so many angels and people who have made my life better because they are part of it. I am not much on my own, but surrounded by such strong, faithful, wonderful people, I feel like I can do anything. 

I returned home last night from a weekend getaway with my three amazing sisters and my parents. We get away one weekend every year and are pampered and spoiled by my sweet Mom and Dad. This has been a tradition we have done for years and it is one of my favorite weekends of the entire year. 

After many hours of talking, sharing, crying, laughing (until we couldn’t breathe), shopping, late nights, yummy food, a warm breakfast every morning made by my cute Mom, my Dad spoiling us shopping, hours of vegging and spending time together, I realized again how blessed I am to have my family. Our strong relationships don’t always come easy. We have had to work through many things over the years, but we stronger for those trials. My family is ‘what is most important to me’ and we all agree we are willing to put in the work to make it wonderful. Grateful for the growth that comes through working at making relationships great.

I know many of you don’t have a family. Or, maybe you have a family but it’s not the family you hoped to have. Despite your situation, I encourage you to look around and see others in your life who help build you up, inspire you and make you want to be a better person. Here are the words to this beautiful Hymn. Read and listen to it and take a few minutes to express gratitude for  ‘Christlike Friends’ who ‘strengthen your faith and enrich your days’.

Each Life That Touches Ours for Good

 

  1. 1. Each life that touches ours for good
    Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
    Thou sendest blessings from above
    Thru words and deeds of those who love.
  2. 2. What greater gift dost thou bestow,
    What greater goodness can we know
    Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
    Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.
  3. 3. When such a friend from us departs,
    We hold forever in our hearts
    A sweet and hallowed memory,
    Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.
  4. 4. For worthy friends whose lives proclaim
    Devotion to the Savior’s name,
    Who bless our days with peace and love,
    We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.

MUSICA. Laurence Lyon, 1934-2006

TEXTKaren Lynn Davidson, b. 1943

Hot Corn Queso

Want a fun way to get to know your neighbors? Our neighborhood has started dinner groups and they are a blast. All you need are a couple people to host, and several people to attend. The person who hosts plans the main dish and then everyone else coming brings side dishes for the meal. Simple, but a great way to get to know all of your awesome neighbors. 

My group had an amazing meal with ribs, cheesy potatoes, cornbread, homemade macaroni and cheese, and everything else delicious and Southern. Not only was the food amazing, but it was so great to get to know some new people.

For those lucky enough to go to Ellen’s house, they got treated to a Mexican feast. She sent me a recipe for this Hot Corn Queso Dip to share with you. Oh my! How scrumptious does this look? My mouth is watering just thinking about how delicious it would be. I’ll be making this asap. Serve this as a side dish or appetizer to make any party or dinner a success! Thanks Ellen for another great recipe. 

Hot Corn Queso
Ingredients
  1. 4 cans sweet corn
  2. 2 cans creamed corn
  3. 1 large red bell pepper, diced (or 1/2 red 1/2 orange for more color!)
  4. 3 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced (seeds/veins removed)
  5. ¼ to ½ cup diced pickled jalapeno peppers
  6. 6 Tbs. butter
  7. 8 oz. cream cheese
  8. 1 tsp paprika
  9. 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I like sharp)
  10. Salt and pepper, to taste
  11. ¼ cup chopped cilantro for topping
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Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan, saute bell peppers and fresh jalapeño to soften. In the same sauce pan add remaining butter and cream cheese.
  3. Stir often until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add your corn, creamed corn and pickled jalapeños.
  5. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper to taste.
  6. Stir in 1 ½ cups of cheddar cheese and stir until fully melted.
  7. Pour into a 9X13 casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray and top with remaining cheddar.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly! Top with cilantro and serve with your favorite tortilla chips or as a side dish for a Mexican fiesta!
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 Login to Deals to Meals to find out where you can buy all of these ingredients at the best prices. Here locally peppers, cream cheese, canned corn and cheese are all on sale for great prices. It’s a great time to make this recipe for cheap 😉

#HisDay: God Loves Us Completely

This is one of my favorite quotes. I printed it off years ago and it’s still hanging in my bathroom all these years later. I read it every single day and find comfort in it’s message about God’s love. It’s such a great reminder that even though we aren’t perfect, our Savior and Heavenly Father loves us completely. Their love is unconditional. It’s perfect and complete for each of us. There are many times I have felt their encompassing love and arms around me and couldn’t be more grateful for this gift in my life. Feeling blessed to know God and to be able to feel His love. 

*This quote was taken from a talk I love. Read it here.

 

Grocery Savings, Easter Highlights & Pintrest ‘Nailed-Its’

How was your Easter weekend? I hope you had a wonderfully relaxing time with your family and friends. Our children’s school break was last week so we decided to go hang out in St. George with our family. It was such beautiful weather which made for  great hikes, lots of swimming, eating and playing with cousins and family. We made it home just in time for me to do a little grocery shopping for Easter and to have dinner with my fam. Look at the pile of groceries I got for $123 and saved $62.41! I got all of the groceries we need for our week’s meal plan and took advantage of some of the awesome Easter deals as well. Most deals end today, so hurry and do a little last minute shopping if you need.

Remember to always login to Deals to Meals before you shop to help save you the most money! Plus..we are extending our LOWEST PRICING SALE through April 30th. Take advantage of a membership to Deals to Meals for only $3.50 a month! You will save that a hundred times over in just a few months!

Besides having a great time in St. George, I wanted to share a funny moment of yesterday. I thought I would humor all of you with my ‘Pintrest Nailed-It!’ posts.

I had dreams of making these darling chickey deviled eggs and a bunny bum cake. Although they are darling, they are a little more tricky than I had first thought. I gave my kids the job of making the chicks and they turned out hilarious! We didn’t have straws to make the olives into round circles, so they looked a little demented. Our bunny bum cake was a little cuter but we forgot the paw prints, didn’t make big enough ears, didn’t have food coloring or large marshmallows. We worked with what we had and it came out pretty cute. Definitely made for some good laughs 😉 Hey..you win some, you lose some, right? Hope your Easter celebrations were wonderful–even with demented egg chicks!

#HisDay: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”

Happy Easter Friends! Hope you are having a beautiful day spending time with family and worshiping our Savior on this special Sunday. Let us celebrate His life and resurrection not just today, but always. The greatest words ever heard, “He is not here, for He is risen” Matthew 28:6

I love to read the New Testament every Easter and Christmas. Sometimes I get through all four books and other times I just read the book of John. No matter what I read, I LOVE reading the stories of Jesus Christ. Every time I read them I learn something new, or a passage jumps out at me that I hadn’t remembered before. As I was reading this past month, a verse in John stuck out at me. It was when Thomas had missed seeing the resurrected Savior with the other apostles. When they told him about their visit and what they saw, Thomas said he couldn’t believe unless he saw Christ himself. 

Soon after, the Savior revisits the apostles and comes over to Thomas. I love this statement He makes: 

Because though hast seen me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

When I read this, I was filled with the spirit and thought about the world we live in today. I feel like Jesus is under attack. People are trying to disprove His existence, take Him out of every school, government, social setting. You name it, the war against Christianity is real. I love Christ’s statement of ‘Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed’. We will most likely not see our Savior in our life time, but we can choose to believe in Him. That is what faith is, right?

I haven not seen my Savior, but I know He lives. I know He suffered for my sins in Gethsemane. I know He was resurrected on the third day, just like He prophesied. And no matter what anyone around me thinks, or wants me to believe, I will always believe in Him, because I have had my own witness that He lives. It is a sweet, peaceful assurance and no one can take that way from me. For that knowledge, I am forever grateful, especially on this sacred, special Easter Sunday. For those of you wondering about your faith. Hold on. Don’t give up. Keep reading, keep studying, keep praying. You will be blessed for not giving up on Christ just because you haven’t seen Him. One day we’ll stand before Him and have our own sure witness, but for now, we can hold on and have faith. God bless each of you and Happy Easter!

Easter Recipe Roundup: 16 Favorite Easter Recipes

Before all of your Easter meal plans are finalized, I wanted to share a few of our favorite Easter recipes with you, as well as others from the web. These blog authors are so talented and I’m excited to share there ideas with you (seriously…look at those chicks. Darling!!) Hope you are having a great Easter week. 

Deviled Egg Chicks by Natasha’s Kitchen

Carrot Pot Hummus by Pinch of Nom

Easter Rainbow Bread by Deals to Meals

Easter Breakfasts

Egg Baskets by Laughing Spatula

Bunny Pancakes by Taste of Home

Strawberry Infused Waffles by Deals to Meals

Easter Treats

Bunny Bum Cake by Betty Crocker

Easter Bunny Cake by Betty Crocker

Easter Chocolate Nests (No Bake) by DeliciouslyYum

Krispy Easter Egg Treats by The Pioneer Woman

Orange Bunny Buns by Deals to Meals

Easter He is Risen Rolls by Deals to Meals

Easter Main Dish

“Passover” Meal plus our Naan Bread and Rice Pilaf

Honey & Brown Sugar Glazed Spiral Ham

Honey and Brown Sugar Glazed Spiral Ham
Ingredients
  1. 5-6 lb. spiral ham
  2. 1/4 cup whole cloves
  3. 1 cup pineapple juice
  4. 1 cup brown sugar
  5. 1/2 cup honey
  6. 2 oranges, juiced
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the ham in a roasting pan and dot with cloves (optional). In a saucepan, combine the pineapple juice, brown sugar, honey and orange juice. Stir and simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour the glaze over the ham.
  3. Bake the ham uncovered for 1 hour in the preheated oven. Remove the ham and serve. Spoon the extra juices and glaze from the bottom of the pan on top of the ham before serving to keep it juicy.
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Deals to Meals http://www.dealstomealsblog.com/

Cheesy Potatoes

Sautéed Rainbow Carrots

 

 

Free Prince of Peace Digital Downloads: Creating a Sacred Easter Week

I can’t believe it’s Easter time already. It feels like it was just yesterday we were celebrating at my sisters house with our annual Passover meal. I love this time of year and the chance we have to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is my King, and I couldn’t love and honor Him more. He is the one who brings me peace and I am so thankful to our church for sharing a new series of inspiring messages about Christ, titled Prince of Peace. Seeing as we have one week before Easter, I wanted to share a few of these amazing resources you can use to help keep your family centered on Christ this next week. And yes, they are all free 😉 

New Prince of Peace Video:

This video beautifully depicts the life and mission of Jesus Christ. It’s a must see, especially for your family. 

8 Principles taught from The Prince of Peace:

Watch an inspiring video for each of these eight principles. We are planning on watching one each day before Easter. Use my cousin’s Prince of Peace FREE printable booklet to help record your thoughts on these principles. 

FREE Prince of Peace Handouts and Printables:

My amazingly talented cousin Courtney Aitken, along with my friend and neighbor Shannon Foster, have come up with these darling, free printables for the Prince of Peace program. They are so incredibly talented it blows my mind. Every printable they design is something I want to frame and hang on my wall. They are beautiful women and create beautiful work. Check out all of their printouts and what they offer on their site The Red Headed Hostess

Our family is going to be focusing on one principle of the 8 Prince of Peace Principles each day. I am printing out a small booklet (from above printout) for each of my kids and having them do a little journaling each day about what they learned. Such a simple and great way to focus on the Savior each day. 

Easter Week:

See pictures and scriptures that explain what Christ did during “Holy Week” or the final week prior to Easter.

Bible Videos:

Our children LOVE these Bible videos. We love to read the book of John during the month of March and watch a corresponding video with each chapter that we read. It’s been neat to see their testimonies and love of our Savior grow as they watch these touching videos.

Our 5 Simple Easter Traditions:

We like to keep things simple around our home. Here are a five of our Easter traditions that help keep Christ the center of our Easter holiday. 

*Check back all week for delicious Easter recipes that will make your meal planning simple & fun!

 

 

Easter Gift Giveaway: FREE Living Scriptures Streaming Membership ($155 Value)

 

Friends, do I have a giveaway for you!? I am thrilled about this and can’t wait to share this giveaway with our readers. We are giving away TWO packages of a 1 Year Membership to Living Scriptures (Value $120) and a 6 month membership to Deals to Meals (Value $30). Enter to win at the bottom of this post 😉

Part of our new philosophy of our blog is a place where we can share some of our favorite family-friendly products with you. It can be challenging raising a family in this day and age and there are several products we use that would be sad to live without. This in mind, there aren’t any products I would ever share with you that I haven’t already spent my hard-earned money on myself. I’m not here to push random products on you. All of the products I will ever talk about on our blog are items we use, love and are part of our family environment. 


Funny enough I was signing up for this Living Scripture membership when I thought–hey..I wonder if they would offer a couple free memberships to our readers. I reached out to Living Scriptures and they were kind enough to offer TWO FREE year memberships for two of our lucky readers. 

Are you new to Living Scriptures? Their videos have been an important part of my life since I was a child. My parents bought many of their VHS tapes and we pretty much watched them until they were falling apart. For my own family, their DVD’s are some of the few videos I’ve actually purchased for my kids (generally we just rent videos and don’t spend the money on them). These videos have become a favorite part of our Sunday routine. We feel it’s important to do things on Sunday’s that help us remember our Savior and keep His spirit with us. We don’t do a lot of the things we might do during the week, and this includes watching t.v. or regular movies (except for an occasional Disney movie). My kids know that their option of videos are anything from our collection of Living Scriptures DVD’s

I was checking my email the other day and noticed they now have an AWESOME streaming option for their products. We have never had the financial option to buy ALL of their DVD’s, so this was a perfect solution for our family. They have SO many videos I’ve never seen, but always wanted to watch. 

The best part about this streaming access is you get their ENTIRE library of videos at your fingertips. Not to mention thousands of coloring pages, Family Home Evening ideas, Quizzes for the kids (my kids LOVE these) and much more. It’s a great way to let your kids watch wholesome entertainment without the worry and be excited they’ll be learning while they do it. It’s a win-win for all parents and kids. 

Besides loving the animation, stories and songs in the movies, we love that they are scripturally accurate. It’s amazing what my kids have learned about the scriptures (and American Heroes) that they didn’t know before. Whether you are studying the Old Testament (12 Videos), New Testament (24 Videos) or Book of Mormon (13 Videos), you have a video for every, favorite story you’ve ever read (and even those I have to admit I’ve never read–still making my way through the Old Testament ;). Ha!

You will also have access to 103 other Living Scripture Titles, 66 Bonus LDS Titles, 10 Music Videos (my kids LOVE these!) and 178 hours of audio programs. That’s a TON of wholesome entertainment for your family to enjoy for months to come.

If you are looking for a great Easter gift for your family, this is it! I can’t wait to tell my kids I got them a year membership of ALL of their favorite scripture, prophet, American Hero and church history videos. Their Sundays just got a lot more entertaining (and inspiring)!! 

We want to say THANK YOU to Living Scriptures for hosting this giveaway. We will be giving away TWO packages of a 1 Year Streaming Membership to Living Scriptures, along with a 6 Month Membership to Deals to Meals. This is a value of $155, so enter to win NOW!

They are also offering a SPECIAL DISCOUNT for our readers of 50% off your first months streaming membership. That means for only $5 for the next month you can stream ANY and ALL of their products. How great is that?! That’s like 3 Red Box rentals–but SO much more wholesome 😉 Not to mention they don’t have any contracts, so you can cancel if you ever feel your family is not using your membership. Now that’s service! 

Here’s what you need to do to enter the giveaway: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Contest also ran on Cool Freebies.com

#HisDay: Optimism

Question of the day friends: are you a complainer or an eternal optimist?  I am married to the most upbeat, optimistic person in the world! Todd is my hero. He has so many attributes I look up to. To be honest though…sometimes it can be hard to be married to someone so happy, so upbeat and so optimistic– when it doesn’t come as natural to you. Don’t get me wrong, being married to someone happy is far from being a trial. In fact, it is such a blessing I feel guilty that someone like me is lucky enough to be married to him.


I have struggled with anxiety since I was a child. People with anxiety have a hard time always looking for the good. We are grateful for the good but can overshadow that with our anxiousness for the future: the ‘what might happen next’, the ‘what ifs’, etc. Being optimistic is something I have to work on being every single day. It’s not easy, but I feel like I’ve made progress over the years. I’m so grateful we have power through our Savior, Jesus Christ to change and be better. 

As a mom, don’t you feel like you are constantly saying things like “Look for the good”, “You have the CHOICE to be happy”, “No one can make you feel that way”, etc., etc., etc. I read an article that was forwarded to me (yes, by my Pollyanna hubby) that I thought was really fascinating. It was on the power of being positive. It was interesting that this article came right after I got done reading the story of Job in the Bible with my son. Man, that man was a saint! After all the heartache, disappointment and anguish Job was put through he ‘never cursed God’. Reading this scripture story helped me realize the importance of choosing to be positive. It is a choice, and although things in life aren’t always easy (in fact, let’s be honest…life can be difficult), we still can choose to praise God and be grateful in every circumstance. 

I thought I’d share the four tricks this article shares to help us avoid negativity:

Show thanks: Even for the little things.

Be aware of yourself: Stop yourself in a middle of a complaint. Quit complaining. Awareness is something to be proud of!

Start a new pattern: We can train ourselves to work towards positivity. The more often we consciously remember the good stuff, the easier positivity becomes.

Practice effort: Remind yourself to let go of that which is not helpful and nurture skill and productivity.

Our thought patterns wire our brains to react positively or negatively to the situations we are presented. So, why not reclaim control of your thoughts by making a concerted effort to focus on being positive? Try it. Beginning today, pay attention to the words you speak. The thoughts that run through your head. You’ll be amazed at just how many of them are negative. It IS possible to rewire your brain – practice, practice, practice!

Here’s the entire article if you’re interested: http://theheartysoul.com/complaining-brain-negativity/

Happy Sabbath friends! Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your tips on how you stay positive–I need all the help I can get 😉 

#HisDay: Worth the Wait

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I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s timing lately. I don’t know if it’s the beginning of a New Year, a new blog, family changes happening, or what it is exactly, but I keep thinking how grateful I am for a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for my life. Ten years ago I never would have thought my life would be where it is today. I would never have thought I would have created a company that would have lasted a decade. Taking a hobby and turning into something you think might support your family takes a lot of faith…and patience! My hat goes off to all of you entrepreneurs out there! I think patience is the number one characteristic needed to be your own boss. It is so easy to get frustrated with yourself, your abilities (or lack there of) and see all the reasons things might not work out.  It’s such a great reminder for me to put my trust in the person with all the power {God}. He can make more of our lives than we can alone. If we’re patient, he will guide us, little by little, to where we need to go…and to what we need to be doing. 

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(Our family a month or so before Deals to Meals started)

From the beginning, I have always felt our company has been divinely guided by a loving Heavenly Father. The way Deals to Meals started and the timing of it, is nothing short of a miracle. Many of you know, but a few months before Deals to Meals started my husband lost his job. It was a hard time financially, as well as emotionally, for our family. As we were praying about what to do, it was as if all the stars aligned and Deals to Meals was born. We didn’t know why or how things would work out, but we felt like it was time for us to take a leap of faith and see where things would take us. It was amazing to see how God’s hand was in the details of how things needed to unfold for our family. 

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(Ten years later…where has the time gone?!?)

As the many years have gone by, we are still amazed at how God’s timing is in the smallest details. We’re not sure how things will always turn out, but it brings such peace of mind knowing if we’re patient, and have faith in God’s plan, we can find true joy. I hope on #HisDay we can think about the many ways (small and big) that God has guided our lives for the better. If you have a story of how God’s timing has been ‘worth the wait’ in your life, I’d love to hear it! We’re here to learn together 😉 

“God’s promises are not always fulfilled as quickly as or in the way we might hope; they come according to His timing and in His ways. The promises of the Lord, if perhaps not always swift, are always certain.”

~Continue in Patience, Dieter F. Uchtdorf

St. Patrick’s Day Pancakes & Leprechaun Smoothies

SPDHappy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! For our clan that means waking up to some favorite green treats, a note from the Leprechaun, green milk and lots of cousin’s over for green pancakes and smoothies. We had a great time this morning and wanted to share these healthy St. Patrick’s Day recipes with you. They’d make a great after school snack or even simpler dinner! Hope you enjoy 🙂 

leprechaun smoothie

Leprechaun Smoothies
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups Almond milk (or regular milk)
  2. 5.3 oz. vanilla yogurt
  3. 1 cup spinach
  4. 1/2 frozen banana
  5. 2 heaping scoops of vanilla protein powder
  6. 1 1/2 cups ice cubes
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a large blender (like a Blentec or Ninja) and puree until smooth. Serve cold.
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Deals to Meals http://www.dealstomealsblog.com/
healthy green pancakes

Healthy St. Patrick's Day Pancakes
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups milk
  2. 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 4 Tbs. canola oil or melted butter
  5. 2 Tbs. sugar
  6. 2 tsp. baking powder
  7. 2 cups flour (can use whole wheat flour)
  8. 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  9. 3/4 tsp. salt
  10. 1 green apple, core removed and diced small
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. In a large blender, blend together the milk and spinach until completely smooth (and green). If you are using a Blendtec blender you can add the remaining ingredients (except the apple) and mix on the 'batter' setting. If you don't have a large blender, just pour the milk/spinach mixture into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients until smooth. Remove the core from the apple and then dice into small pieces. Add the apples to the pancake and mix.
  2. Heat a griddle to medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place a spoonful of batter onto the griddle and cook until bubbles in the pancake pop. Flip the pancake over and cook on the other side until cooked through. Serve with regular syrup or butter syrup.
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Deals to Meals http://www.dealstomealsblog.com/

Welcome Friends to our NEW Blog!

It’s official and we are ready to PARTY! What a crazy, fun, thrilling last two years this has been designing and putting together this blog. We couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out and we hope you love it too. Really, the only reason we have put the money and time into this site, is with the hopes of you enjoying your time here.  We invite you to come back often, learn with us and sit back while we share our family’s adventures with you.

We know it’s the weekend, so things are going to start off slowly, but check back Monday for some BIG giveaways and exciting announcements. We have some fun offers for you to say THANK YOU for being so supportive throughout the past TEN years. Can you believe Deals to Meals has been around since 2007? That seems like just yesterday and yet a lot of things have changed and evolved. Everyday we are SO grateful for your support of Deals to Meals and what we do. We wouldn’t still be in business if it weren’t for you, so a big thank you from our family to yours!

~Shandra & Todd

#HisDay: Do Your Best

1hinkley-quoteHappy Sabbath! While creating this new blog I have thought long and hard about what I want this space to entail. I have pondered for many hours on what I have to offer the world that hasn’t already been done already. Or, honestly, hasn’t been done better than what I will do. It’s easy to get intimidated when putting your heart and talents out there for the world to see–no matter what that looks like for you. For me, it’s owning our own business and this blog. For others it’s a career, being a mother, serving in your community. No matter what our lives are like, there are always those times we have to jump in with both feet and have faith God will make up the rest.  Among wanting to share favorite recipes, meal planning tips, family life, I want to share with you my love of my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything I do in this life is to honor him. I’m not always great at it, but that’s where my heart is. He is my support, my rock and the one that gives me hope to keep moving forward and trying new things. Since Sunday is #HisDay, I want to share with you quotes, scriptures or thoughts that help me in my life. Today, I want to share a quote from President Hinckley (a past Prophet of our church) who said something I love. He said ‘Simply Do What You Can Do and the Lord will Accept Your Offering’. I truly believe if we do our best, the Lord will make up the rest. And for today…this is my best and I honor Him in all I do. Know you are good enough and His love is unconditional. For me, that means everything. God bless you friends!1

Vacation Favorites and Traditions

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It’s been a few days back from our trip and I can’t stop thinking about how wonderful it was to relax and be with my family. For journaling purposes (I’m awful about that!) I wanted to share just a few highlights for you 😉

Our trip started in Anaheim where we decided to save our money and not go to Disneyland but went to Knott’s Berry Farm instead. We gave annual passes to our kids for Christmas and were surprised at what a great time we had. (Tip: Instead of giving lots of gifts, giving the gift of ‘memories’ has become our favorite thing to do. Kids will remember experiences more than they will gifts 😉 We then headed to Oceanside and spent a couple days at the beach, eating too much and having a great time.

Once we were done in Oceanside we made our way to Indio. It’s a small town near Palm Springs that has nothing to do but spend the day in the resort. Our days were filled with exercising (to help counter balance our eating), playing tennis, swimming, watching the Food Network, cooking and eating. Staying in a condo is a must for our big clan. It saves us TONS of money to be able to cook and eat-in all week. 

My family is ALL about eating good food. Some of us may or may not have gained over 10 pounds in 13 days! Yikes. However, we had a great time trying new recipes, eating old favorites and spending lots of time together in the kitchen and being together. Watch for some ‘healthy’ new cookie recipes coming soon (grateful for Grandma Mary who tries to keep us healthy).

One thing we always do on our trips is search out a new and fun place to eat out (as adults of course!). This year we went to an amazing restaurant called The Flying Pig in Oceanside. It was amazing! They have homemade pastas, great burgers, amazing pork chops, flatbreads and much more! If you’re in the area, this is a place to stop by (along with our fave Rockin Baja…yum!).

We also had our annual taste test with the kids. This is something we have done for almost 10 years now and the kids won’t let us not do it. This year we decided to taste test orange juice. It was a fun one and the kids loved it! We were a little surprised that Simply Orange (the one we all thought would win had zero favorite votes–bizarre!). The favorite amongst nearly everyone was between Florida’s Natural and Tropicana. It was nearly a tie and they both were super fresh tasting and delicious. The least favorite was Donald Duck (not too shocking) and Langer’s. So, the next time you’re out shopping for orange juice…keep this in mind and watch for our favorites to go on sale 😉

Sunny California Get-Away

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We have officially ran away from the snow and are spending some time in sunny California–and are loving it! Whether we’re playing at the ocean,  spending the day at Knott’s Berry Farm, or hanging out at our condo, it’s been a great time. One way we try and save money on vacation is by bringing food from home and using Deals to Meals while away. We did a shopping trip at some local grocery stores and bought all of the ingredients we needed for our week’s meal plan. We even made homemade pizzas tonight and enjoyed our favorites: Buffalo Chicken Pizza and Thai Chicken Pizza. Yum! Whether you’re home, or away, it’s never a bad time to use Deals to Meals to save you some BIG money!

Planning the Perfect Party {Menu, Decor, Favorite Things}

Last week was my sisters 35th birthday and we decided to throw her a surprise birthday party. She is a huge fan of birthday’s so we wanted to make this one special. Instead of just going out to lunch we wanted to throw a party that would help her feel loved and special. It was such a success I wanted to share some tips that made this party unforgettable. 

 

I have to give all of the credit to my two dear friends Amber and Betsy. I handled the food and they were in charge of set up and decor (two things I don’t do!). Give me food assignments any day, but to make something look beautiful, that’s totally out of my comfort zone. Didn’t they do such a great job though? It was seriously magical!

 

Favorite Menu

No matter what party I am throwing, this is my go-to menu of choice. It’s easy, can be prepared a day (or two) in advance and is a crowd pleaser for everyone. Here’s what we served:

*Fruit Kabobs (any of your favorite fruit on a skewer)

*Sparkling Grape Punch (two 2 liters of Fresca or Squirt & 12 oz. Welch’s White Grape Juice Concentrate)

*Favorite Brownies and/or cheesecake

 

Place Settings

Betsy did an amazing job mixing disposable items with real place settings. We didn’t want to spend the afternoon washing dishes, so we used a nice square paper plate with the plastic ware that looks like it’s real silver. For the dessert plates, she has collected different eclectic small plates from the local D.I. that all have a soft, antique look. They were darling! She also has collected different shapes and sizes of goblets. The modge-podge look worked perfectly together and made the table seem extra special.

(The biggest problem with planning a party is knowing who to invite. Without hesitation we could have had 50 amazing ladies at my sisters party. Not inviting everyone is the problem–if only my house was larger to hold everyone :/)

 

Décorations

Betsy put a strip of burlap down the center of the table and had two matching floral arrangements on the center table. Along the other tables were lots of mis-match candle holders with candles in white and gold. The lit candles made the table feel super romantic and elegant. She also printed off small images with the ‘birthday number’ and framed them on the table. You could also print out pictures of the special guest and put those on the table. A white table cloth made the perfect blank canvas for the table.

 

Favorite Things Party

This was the most adorable idea ever! Each person who comes to the party is asked to bring something that represents their favorite thing about the birthday person (or bride, mother-to-be, etc.). For example, my sister loves to write thank you cards to people, so someone brought a stack of thank you cards for her. Another person brought scripture markers because she loves to read her scriptures. My sister is a great conversationalist and is always giving compliments, so I gave her a big bag of conversation hearts. We told everyone to bring small and simple things but you could be as elaborate as you wish. The sweet part was everyone sharing things they loved about my sister. There were lots of tears and laughs which made the party memorable.

 

Whether you’re planning a future birthday party, bridal shower or baby shower, I hope these tips and ideas make your party a great success!

Happy Birthday Sista!

Happy New Year and Holiday Updates

1Happy New Year! I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas, and Christmas break with your friends and family. We have loved every minute of this past week and I have taken advantage of no blogging and just hanging out with the fam. Our break has been nothing but slow, relaxing days with lots of crazy kiddos running around. Several members of our family got the flu over the break (ugh!)  so it made for a good excuse to hunker down inside, play games, bake too many treats and watch plenty of Christmas movies. Just my kind of break!

 

So I can remember for next year, we started two new traditions we can’t wait to continue next year. The first is a cousin talent show. Most of my kids, as well as our nieces and nephews take piano lessons from my beautiful mom. She is extremely patient with all these crazy monkeys, but has done a great job teaching them this new talent. We had a fun night where we all brought appetizers and enjoyed each child sharing a talent of their choice. It was a fun night for the kids to showcase things they had been working on all year.

The second tradition we’re going to continue was shared with us by my sister. Not sure where this tradition originated, but it was super fun. On a night before Christmas (we’re thinking it would be great on Christmas Adam) we will have a ‘Yule Log’ night. This is where the parents choose a small gift that represents that child for the year, or some accomplishment they have achieved. For example, my son Isaac got a cat. He named it Skittles and so he got a cat ornament with a bag of Skittles. The gifts don’t need to be fancy or expensive, but something sentimental the children will enjoy.

Each present is then wrapped individually (with their names written on the top) and then wrapped one by one, on top of each other–with a layer of wrapping paper in between each gift. The gift ends up being this big, funny shaped gift with lots of presents on the inside of it.

You then take turns opening a layer of the Yule Log and talking about the gift and what it represents. Before the child opens their ‘layer’ though we had them share a favorite Christmas memory that helped them closer to Jesus Christ. It was neat to hear their responses and the memories they have of past Christmases. It was a fun night where we could all reminisce and give the kids some time to talk about their accomplishments and some specific things we love about them. It was such a hit, we will for sure be doing this again next year. It was a spiritual (and fun) highlight of our Christmas.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas too. I sure love and appreciate you taking time to stop by our blog each week. I love sharing our family with you and are grateful you stop by.

Get ready for a new year here at Deals to Meals! I still can’t believe a new year is here. We are going to have some amazing new updates and changes in 2017. We are still working on transferring over thousands of recipes to our new blog and then it will be ready to reveal (I can hardly wait!). I just need a month long vacation to enter all of them–ah!

 

In the meantime, make sure and check back often for more great recipes, grocery shopping tips, food storage ideas and family fun. I’m here to blog for you, so if you have ideas or things you would like to see me blog about, I’d love to hear from you. Your comments are my fave!! Have a great week 🙂

 
 

Christmas Swirl Bread

My sister is a bread genius! She is the one that came up with our Rainbow Bread that people have loved on You Tube. It is such a fun, creative way to take bread from boring to beautiful. Well, she decided to use this same technique and turn our favorite bread recipe into this Christmas Bread. How cute is that?! With a little red and green dye, you can make this bread too! A fun way to serve bread this Christmas season. Enjoy 😉

Check out our Rainbow Bread Video for the method of how to make this bread. It’s so fun!!

Christmas Swirl Bread
Makes 5-6 loaves
Ingredients
  1. 7 cup white flour
  2. 2/3 cup vital wheat gluten
  3. 2 1/2 Tablespoon instant yeast
  4. 5 cups hot water (120-130 F)
  5. 2 Tablespoon salt
  6. 2/3 cup oil
  7. 2/3 cup honey or 1 c. sugar (I like honey the best!)
  8. 2 1/2 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice
  9. 5-5 1/2 cups more white flour
  10. 1 container red food coloring
  11. 1 container green food coloring
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Mix together the first three ingredients in your mixer with a dough hook. Add water all at once and mix for 1 minute; cover and let rest for 10 minutes (this is called sponging). Add salt, oil, honey or sugar, and lemon juice and beat for 1 minute. Add last bit of flour, 1 cup at a time, beating between each cup. Beat for about 6-10 minutes until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This makes very soft dough.
  2. Pre-heat oven for 1 minute to lukewarm and turn off. Turn dough onto oiled counter top; divide the dough into two pieces. Add one of the balls back into the mixer with the dough hook. Place a cloth over the other ball of dough so it doesn't dry out. Add one container of food coloring into the ball of dough (use one color at a time). Mix the dough until the food coloring dyes the dough to the vibrancy of the color you are looking for. Once the dough has been colored, remove the dough ball and put into a bowl. Place the second dough ball into the mixer. Add a container of green food coloring to the ball of dough and continue to mix until incorporated.
  3. Once the dough is colored, you can start forming your loaves. Spray each of the bread pans. Take a portion of each color and spread it out into a rectangle shape with your hands. Add the second color on top of the bottom layer and continue back and forth with red and then green. Roll up the dough into a a rectangle shape, the length of your bread pan. Smooth down the edges and place the dough into the greased baking pan. Continue to do this for the remaining bread loaves. There is no specific way the bread needs to be rolled. Just be creative and combine the dough together any way you'd like. Once the dough has all been rolled into the pans, let the bread rise in warm oven for 10-15 minutes, or the until dough reaches the top of the pan. Do not remove bread from the oven; turn oven to 350 F and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks. Slice the bread and be surprised at your different designs. Enjoy!!
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Deals to Meals http://www.dealstomealsblog.com/

New Christmas Song: If I Were a Shepherd

 

Okay friends, I have a HUGE Christmas present for you from a dear friend of mine. She is the sweetest, most humble woman you would ever meet, and has a talent bigger than life. Her name is Stephanie and she lives here in my neighborhood. She surprised us this year with a Christmas song she wrote for the primary children in our church. She felt inspired to write this song for awhile and I don’t think she could have ever guessed how many lives she has touched by writing this song.

I have absolutely NO musical ability. I am practically tone-deaf. It really is embarrassing ;/ It’s okay, I’ve come to appreciate the fact God gave us all different talents and this just happens to not be one of mine 😉 For that reason, I feel an immense amount of gratitude for people who are willing, and able, to share their musical abilities with others. Some day, when I die, I hope to sing with the Heavenly Chorus and share my testimony through song. For now, I am SO grateful my friend has given me permission to share her beautiful song with you.

Beware, you will need some tissues! This song is simple in it’s message, and yet filled with a depth of spirit that will touch your heart. The words to this song are so tender and sweet. The words bear testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ and our desire to be His disciples. I can’t wait for you to watch this music video. We had a neighborhood Christmas party tonight where 75 children dressed up in a nativity costume and sang this song for over 200 people. The children’s faces are as sweet as this song. If you love Christmas songs, this one is going to quickly become your favorite!

Stephanie has been so kind and is willing to share the music to this song for FREE. Download the song HERE so you can enjoy this song in your own home. Or, even better, teach this song to children in your neighborhood to help spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

#Lighttheworld: 25 Days in 25 Ways

I couldn’t be more excited about a new initiative our church has started today to help bring Christ back to the center of Christmas: #LightTheWorld. We all get so busy and it’s easy to get distracted during the holiday season. I am grateful for this new program that will help me, and my family, keep our lives centered on Christ during this Christmas season.

Check out their website where you can print off the entire calendar with the 25 simple things we can do each day to have a wonderfully spiritual Christmas. Each day on www.lds.org they will highlight the new day’s goal along with a short video to help get you excited. Here was today’s video to highlight the day of service. We were encouraged to help lighten someones burdens today. Really, as a Mom, this is what we do ALL day, right? I feel like the most important service we do is in our own home. However, it is great to get outside and find new ways to serve. It’s been inspiring on Instagram today to see all the different ways people have ‘shown light’ today.

My Mom found an opportunity for my teenagers, my sisters and me to go and help organize a refugee donation center. When we first got there, it was a HUGE mess. Nothing was organized and it was hard to make sense of the thousands of items of clothing, canned food, shoes, etc. After several hours, it was SO fun to see the room come together and to have everything in it’s own organized place. Service just makes you smile, doesn’t it!? It was worth every second to see my kids think outside of themselves and to have them realize how blessed they are. We were also able to mingle with some of the adorable refugee children at school and they were SO cute! They would come up to my daughter and play with her hair. She smiled and laughed with them. It was priceless! For all who have teenagers, you realize how special these simple moments are. If this were the only thing we were to do this month, this #LighttheWorld initiative has brought the spirit of Christmas into our family–for that, I am grateful!

If you’re interested in doing this, head over to my friends site and see all of her cute journals, ornaments and cute printouts she’s put together to help make this initiative even cuter and more fun for your family. Hope you love 😉 Merry Christmas!

Holiday Traditions and Homemade Hot Chocolate

Anyone that’s followed this blog for awhile knows how completely important I feel traditions are for families. In fact, you could probably say I’m slightly obsessed with traditions. My parents made my childhood SO fun! In fact, many times I feel guilty that my childhood was such a pleasant experience. I know it’s not that way for everyone, but I know one way to make home life more enjoyable is by adding a few simple traditions your children can look forward to. It’s funny how you can do the simplest thing but if you do it every year, it becomes a fond memory for your kids. This season, I hope to share some of our favorite traditions with each of you. Our traditions are nothing fancy. In fact, they are things any of you can do with a little prep work, and maybe some yummy food 😉

I would also LOVE to hear your traditions too. We are always looking to add another fun activity, so feel free to send them my way! The first holiday tradition of the season for our family is the second Sunday of November we always put up our Christmas tree (okay, trees–yes, my husband puts up 10–yikes!). When we put up our big tree in the family room we always watch Polar Express and have hot chocolate. It’s the perfect show to watch while putting up the tree because there isn’t much of a story line, so if you get side tracked, that’s okay. Ha! Nothing fancy right, but you can’t believe how excited the kids get to do this every year. Simple, yet fun. Let the holidays begin!


Homemade Hot Chocolate
Ingredients
  1. 2 cup powdered sugar
  2. 1 cup cocoa powder
  3. 1 1/4 cup dry powdered milk
  4. 1 tsp. salt
  5. 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla (if making right away)
  7. 6 cup hot water (or milk)
  8. 1/2-1 cup milk chocolate or semi sweet chocolate chips
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. In a large pan whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, dry powdered milk, salt and cornstarch. Keep cocoa mix in an airtight container if you're not using the whole thing at one time. When making cocoa, add 3 T. cocoa mix to 1 cup of hot water. If you like your cocoa more chocolatey, add more cocoa mix or the chocolate chips (optional). For a really creamy hot chocolate, add warmed milk instead of water. Serve with marshmallows or whipping cream. For a fun holiday twist, add crushed peppermints on top of hot chocolate and a drop of peppermint extract to the cocoa.
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Money Saving Tip: Prepackaged Chip Bags

For those who follow our Instagram (thanks mucho!) you might have seen a Money Saving Tip I shared earlier today. Making home lunches for my children can be a challenge and it can add up quickly. Although it is still much less expensive to send a home lunch, sometimes having all the ‘fun’ snacks, can break the bank. My kids love chips (they get it from their mother ;), so instead of buying prepackaged bags of chips, I make my own. The nice thing about this is that I can determine how many chips I want in each bag and what kinds of chips my children like to eat. It seems I buy those big packages of pre-bagged chips and they tend to only like a few of the flavors. So, when a chip goes on sale that my children like, I buy a couple bags and then come home and put a handful in separate bags for my children’s lunches. This week chips are on sale for only $1.77, so I was able to get 17 bags of chips for only $0.10 each! That’s a fourth the price of the bags you can buy at the store. Hope this simple tip helps your family save a few extra dollars each month 😉

Happy Veteran’s Day


Happy Veterans Day! Went to the most touching and patriotic program at my children’s school today (seriously, it’s the BEST school ever!). There were few dry eyes and we all left feeling so grateful for the men and women who serve our country. I feel so blessed to live in America. After this recent election and all of the ill feelings from both sides, it’s great to be reminded about the real things that make this country so great. To those who serve and sacrifice for our freedom, THANK YOU ??

Happy Halloween 2016

Hope you all had a wonderful, happy and safe Halloween!

Cancun Update and 9 Favorite Mexican Recipes

Oh, it’s been good to be home and back in the swing of things. Todd and I went on a dreamy, romantic getaway last week to Cancun Mexico. We went with my sisters and their hubbys to an all-inclusive resort and had the best time of our lives. We had been to Cancun several times but for many of them it was their first time. It was so fun to share all that we love about Mexico with them. I am working on sharing with you some tips and tricks we have found to make a week long, romantic getaway to Cancun a reality for you too! There are lots of ways to make this trip affordable, so watch for that post coming next week.

For now, I wanted to share with you some of the amazing food we had in Cancun. At this all-inclusive resort we pretty much ate 24/7. The food was incredible and we came back with several dishes that are our favorite that I have blogged about in years past. I thought I would compile them and share them with you.  Unlike traditional American-mexican food, they don’t eat a lot of burritos, enchiladas or smothered/platter food. Traditional Mexican food is a lot of more about a flavorful meat, spanish rice, authentic black beans and fresh salsas–all wrapped up in a homemade corn tortilla. In the week we were there I don’t think we had one flour tortilla. That must be an American thing? Not sure. Either way, their food was heavenly and some of our favorite meals are below. The hotel we stayed at had an open, all you can eat taco bar and we pretty much ate ourselves sick each night eating Pork Pastor Tacos, Shredded Pork Tacos and Steak Tacos. Oh man! They were AMAZING! Give our recipes a try. They might not be quite as authentic, but they will fit the bill!


Past Trip to Cancun at the RIU

Pork Street Tacos

Pork Pastor Tacos

Cochinita Pibil

Authentic Black Beans

Guacamole

Pico de Gallo

Carnitas Lime Steak Tacos

Mexican Rice

Tres Leche Cake

Enjoy!

The Mom Conference Encore Day

 

Last week’s Mom Conference was amazing! I wasn’t able to watch all of the webinars since I was in Mexico, but the ones I was able to I loved. I always learn so much every time I watch their presentations. In case some of you missed this free conference, they are having an ENCORE day today! You can watch five of their most popular presenters from this past week. I am so glad they are doing this since I missed a few. If you haven’t had a chance to participate in the Mom Conference this is a great time to do it! Just register here and they will send you an email with the links 😉

 

If you’ve previously registered, you’ll get an email with a special link to get you into Encore Day. Today is the LAST day you’ll be able to participate in this powerful conference for FREE, so don’t miss this opportunity!

 

P.S. If you can’t make it to Encore Day or if you’ve attended parts of the conference and it’s left you wanting more, you can get a steal of a deal on a Mom Conference Recording Package that will give you LIFETIME access to the 20 presentations along with a whole lot of other great material to help you be the mom you really want to be. Check it out here. I just ordered mine, and can’t wait to watch all 20! The best part about it is that if you buy one of their packages, you get a TWO MONTH membership FREE for Deals to Meals, along with many more freebies. The package is worth over $300 and is on sale for only $97 today and tomorrow! For lifetime access, and all the bonus material, it’s a bargain!

Cherry Peach Cobbler with Brown Sugar Crumble and Summer Happenings

 One of my favorite parts about summer is all of the fresh fruit that goes on sale. I love that fresh peaches, apricots, cherries, watermelon and cantaloupe are all on sale this week. I am a huge fan of cobblers and wanted to use some of the fruits on sale to come up with a new, delicious recipe I could share with you. I needed a quick dessert the other night for a family event so I used the peaches and cherries I bought at the store this past week. I had never used fresh cherries in a cobbler before,  but I loved their juicy, sweet flavor they added. I am sure you could use apricots instead of peaches as well, you might need to add a little apricot nectar to loosen them up though. No matter what fruits you choose to use in this recipe, this brown sugar crumble is heaven!! I hope you are having a great week and give this recipe a try 😉

*Looking for fresh produce on sale? Login to Deals to Meals to see where the best sales are in your area.

For those here in Utah, you’ve got to check out the Payson-Nebo Loop. It was breathtaking and such a beautiful place to camp and hike. Can’t believe I had never been there before!
Summer fun here on the home front 😉

 

Cherry Peach Cobbler with Brown Sugar Crumble
Ingredients
  1. 5-7 large peaches
  2. 2-3 cups cherries
  3. 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  4. 1/4 cup brown sugar
Crumble
  1. 2 cups quick or regular oats
  2. 3/4 cup flour
  3. 1 cup brown sugar
  4. 2 tsp. cinnamon
  5. Dash nutmeg
  6. Dash salt
  7. 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Rinse the peaches under hot water. Cut them in half and remove the pit. On a cutting board, cut the peaches into small dices. Add the cut peaches into a bowl. If you don't like the peach skins, you can peel them before you dice them. For the cherries, rinse them in a colander. Remove the stems and then cut the cherries in half. Remove the pits with your finger or with a cherry pit remover. Place the halved cherries into the bowl with the peaches. Add the lemon juice and fourth cup of brown sugar to the fruit and mix until combined. Let the fruit sit for a few minutes to allow the juices to come out of the fruit.
  2. For the crumble, place the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a bowl. Combine together until mixed. Add the butter at room temperature and mix around with a fork until the crumble is crumbly and everything is combined. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and then pour the fruit and it's juices into the pan. Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the fruit. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream once you remove from the oven.
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Our Favorite Things Giveaway: Sevylor Fish Hunter 6 Man Raft

Congratulations to Eraka B. who was the winner of our $25 Amazon Gift Certificate. We are excited to be giving away an another $25 gift card this week and highlighting another one of our favorite products. This is something we’ll be doing every Monday and hope to get you excited and share some of our favorite services and products our family has grown to love. We are a big family and love to be active and have a lot of fun together. We have a huge extended family that we live near by and love to spend time with as well. So, we have tested, used up, worn out and loved many products we would love to share with you. If you ever need a good gift idea, Fathers Day/Mother’s Day or Christmas idea, I’m hoping these list of items will help you in that search. I am not a very good gift giver and sometimes it’s hard to think of things my family would use, that won’t end up in a good will pile in a few months.

I am thrilled to share this new product with you. If you follow me on Instagram you know we use our Sevylor Raft ALL the time. About three years ago my family wanted to ride down a local river and looked into renting a raft and company to shuttle us up and back. We found out it would cost over $250 for our family to go rafting just one time. With several teenagers and little kids who love adventure, we decided to look into investing in a raft of our own. At the time we had no idea how much we would love this raft and how fun it would be! We have since used this raft 5-6 times a year and it has been amazing quality and completely dependable. My husband did hours of research to find the best raft for the price and this Sevylor Fish Hunter 6 Man Raft was the winner. Since we purchased our own raft, several of our family members have purchased them as well–and loved them!

These rafts would be the perfect Christmas or summer gift for your whole family. With one month left of summer, it’s not too late to purchase one, get it shipped to you by Wednesday and be out on a river or lake by this weekend. We love going rafting because other than gas to get us to a river, the rest of the event is free. We pack a lunch or dinner, raft down the river and are back home without spending a lot of money. Here is a list of 25 of the best river rafting destinations in the U.S. to get you excited 😉

Now, enter to win $25 to go towards your purchase of this raft, or one of your favorite products. Follow the instructions below and check back Monday to find out who the winner is 😉

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Our Favorite Things: Brookstone Pocket Projector

 

Each week I am excited to share with you some of our family’s favorite products that make our life more enjoyable and fun! Whether it’s kitchen gadgets, specialty foods, or products my family uses on a regular basis, we want to share them with you. If you are like me, you get tired of having to do endless research to figure out the best products for your money. Well, we have taken the guess work out of shopping for you. We will only share with you those products that are tried-and-true and that we own, and use, on a frequent basis–some items multiple times a day!

So, for our first product of the week, I want to share with you this Brookstone Pocket Projector. It has seriously been one of the most fun investments we have ever made. This projector has made for hours of endless fun for people of all ages. We take this portable projector with us on all of our trips and family adventures. We even bring this projector with us while we’re camping. We hang a white sheet in our trailer and watch a movie at night before bed. We even project movies in our backyard for the neighborhood kids to watch. The great thing about this projector is it high enough quality you can use it as your every-day projector in a theater room. The quality is very crisp and clear and works great no matter where you are!

 

Healthy Hulk Green Pancakes {with Spinach and Bananas}

 
No, it’s not your eyes. These pancakes are meant to be green. Before you mock them, or disregard this recipe, give them a try! We served these for a family breakfast this past weekend and they were a hit (especially with all who were trying to be a little healthier). These pancakes are filled with lots of good, healthy ingredients and your kids won’t even know. Instead of using food dye, add some spinach to your pancakes and you’ll get lots of vitamins and extra goodness in your pancakes without your kids even knowing. Not to mention these pancakes are gluten free, full of protein and a great way to start your morning. If you want a healthy breakfast your family (even your kids) will love, give these Hulk Hulgan pancakes a try. TIP: If your kids are picky eaters, don’t let them see you add the spinach. My kids that saw me add it were funny about eating them. Those that didn’t know what was in them, just thought I used food coloring and were totally happy to eat them.


*Pancakes above had a little white flour in them to help them be puffy and tall. If you are not going for gluten-free, these are my favorite way to serve them. You still have LOTS of nutrients in these pancakes so I didn’t feel badly to add a little white flour.

Healthy Hulk Green Pancakes
Ingredients
  1. 6 eggs
  2. 1 cup cottage cheese
  3. 1 cup cooked brown rice or wheat flour
  4. 1 banana
  5. 1 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  6. 1 tsp. baking powder
  7. Dash salt
  8. 1 Tbs. honey
  9. 1 1/2 cup oats or white flour
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. In a large blender, like a Blendtec, put the eggs, cottage cheese, brown rice, banana and spinach together. Blend the mixture until it's smooth. If you are using cooked brown rice, blend the mixture until it's totally smooth for best texture. To the blender, add the baking powder, salt, honey and the oats (or flour). Continue to blend until the batter is smooth. Heat a griddle and spray with non-stick cooking spray or butter. Pour a small amount of batter onto the griddle and bake one pancake to test the texture of the pancake. If you want a more fluffy and tall pancake, you may need to add a little more flour to the recipe. If you are trying to go gluten-free, leave the flour out and just use more oats. The pancakes will be much thinner without flour but will still work. After you get a pancake with the right thickness and texture, continue to cook the pancakes until ready to serve. Serve with fresh fruit, syrup or butter syrup.
Notes
  1. *Pancakes above had a little white flour in them to help them be puffy and tall. If you are not going for gluten-free, these are my favorite way to serve them. You still have LOTS of nutrients in these pancakes so I didn't feel badly to add a little white flour.
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Happy 4th of July 2016

Happy fourth of July 2016 everyone!

S’more Cookie Bars and Summer Update

 

Sorry I have been awful at blogging this past week. We are spending some good, quality time disconnected this week with my inlaws and my family. We are on our annual week long reunion and having a blast. I really love the way his family does reunions. There are 9 siblings and each year one sibling is in charge of planning the reunion. They get the opinions of the other siblings, but in the end it is up to them to decide where to go. Sometimes we stay at home and do fun things each day together, and other times we get away and rent a condo or house we can all stay in together. This year we have been spending the week in Midway Utah. It has been beautiful and relaxing. I have been sharing some of our favorite pics on instagram (follow us at Dealstomeals), but for our recipe today I wanted to share a flashback recipe for these S’more Cookie Bars.

I have made these three times in the past week and they are seriously a heavenly recipe. They are amazing! They are gooey, full of chocolate, golden marshmallows, and a buttery cookie crust that is to die for. I really can’t see how you could improve on this treat. I brought up all of the ingredients to make these bars in our condo and we all devoured them in a few minutes flat. These are definitely a crowd pleaser and perfect for summer! Hope you enjoy 🙂

S’more Cookie Bar Recipe

Happy Father’s Day {Favorite Family Tradition}

Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing fathers and husbands out there! I am so grateful for all of the inspiring, strong, faithful men in my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better father and husband. They are both wonderful examples to me, my children and have been an enormous blessing in my life. Love you Todd and Daddio!

Every year my sister plans a huge ‘Dad’s vs. Kids’ competition with all sorts of games and activities. This has become such a fun tradition that all of the kids look forward to every year. We have such a great time watching the Dad’s (and Grandpa’s) get competitive and play against the kids. The children were thrilled to win two years in a row, and couldn’t help but rub it into the Dads 😉 You don’t have to do any elaborate games, just simple, fun activities that don’t take a lot of prep work. Here are a few of our favorites:

*Clothes-pin tag–Each Dad and child has a clothes pin pinned to them somewhere on their clothing. You set a timer for a certain amount of time and they see who can take eachother’s clothes pin. Once your pin has been taken, you are out and have to sit down. The team with the most clothes pins in the end wins.

*Using scrabble or Banana-gram tiles, have each team have to spell out the words ‘Happy Father’s Day”.

*Have each team perform a simple jingle (like from a commercial). The Mom’s decide who did the best job (this was hilarious!).

*Volleyball with a balloon. The balloon can’t touch the ground and each person can only hit it one time on each side.

*Give each team a pile of skittles or M&M’s. Give them each a straw and have them have to transport the candy with their straw (sucking in air will keep it on the end of the straw) to a designated spot across the yard. The team who gets them all moved the quickest, wins.

*”People” Taboo using each person playing the game is really fun. They have to explain the person without using specific characteristics about each person. The team who guesses the most right wins.

*Picture Match–have a picture of each participant when they were a baby. Crop the photo so that all you can see are their eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks. Remove as much of the hair or face that would give away which child it is. The Dad’s have to pick out of all of the pictures which babies are their own children. The kids have to do the same and match up all the Dad’s pictures. This one takes some prep work but is super fun!

*

My Go-To Party Menu when throwing a shower, small party or ladies brunch

Spring and summer seems to be the time for weddings, baby showers and family parties. I wanted to share our go-to party menu that we use for baby showers, wedding showers, and ladies brunches when we need something quick and fun. We just threw a wedding shower today for my darling cousins so I thought I would snap a few photos to help give you an idea of some easy recipes. Do you have favorite recipes or themes you use when throwing parties? I would love to hear your tips, tricks or recipes for throwing a party. Feel free to comment below 🙂 I always love to hear from each of you!

Bacon (or Sausage) Quiche–this is hands-down the very best quiche recipe you will ever eat. It’s simple to make a head of time and then just warm up the day of the party. I usually bake the quiche the night before the party and then just warm up the quiche at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.

Fruit Kabobs “Summer Style”–how cute is this fruit kabob display? My Mom got this idea on Pintrest and I thought it was so cute. Simply cut a personal sized watermelon, scoop out a thin layer of the melon. Cut wood skewer sticks to the width of the melon and place horizontally on the melon to look like grill grates. Cut three pieces of celery and poke into the watermelon underside (you might need to cute out a small whole with a knife). Skewer the remaining fruit and place on the watermelon ‘grill’ for display.


Mango & Strawberry Salsa with Chips–This dip is totally woman friendly and one we love to serve. The flavors go great together and it has the sweet and spicy flair that most women love. Not to mention you can again make this salsa the night before to make for easy prep on the day of.

Shortcake Berries and Cream Mini Bites–How darling are these? I think these could possibly be the cutest, smallest, delicious dessert of spring. I love the chewy and moist sugar cookie base (just use one batch of our favorite recipe over here). Place the dough into a mini muffin tin and bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden brown. As soon as you take them out of the oven use a small spoon or utensil to create a crevice in the center of the cookie to put the filling. Make up a whipping cream and cream cheese mixture to pipe in the center and top with some fresh berries. This recipe is a great one (thanks Kara for this great recipe!) and tastes delicious inside the cookie shell. You can play around with different combinations or puddings to make these to your liking. The berries and cream however are perfectly summer-like and so fun to pop in your mouth throughout the party.

We also served veggies and dip, as well as these Butterscotch Bars for those who needed a little chocolate 😉

Hope these simple recipes give you some ideas for your next party you’re throwing! Enjoy 😉

5 Father’s Day Gift Ideas—your man and family will love {Special discounts for our readers!}

Can you believe it’s only a littler over a week before it’s Father’s Day? Father’s Day is one of my favorite days because I get the chance to try and share all of the love I have for the amazing men in my life. From my own father, to my husband, I am so grateful for all of them. Even though gifts don’t make the day more special, sometimes it’s fun to give gifts that will bring our loved ones some added joy and excitement.

If you are like me however, you might be struggling to find the perfect gift for those Father’s in your life. Shopping for Todd can be pretty frustrating and overwhelming. He loves everything techy and digital, where as I still prefer to use paper and pencils. We don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to gift giving (he is MUCH better at it than I am). So, since he is such a great gift giver, I thought I would enlist his help to share with you some of his favorite products the father’s in your life are sure to love 🙂 Let’s get started, shall we?


Have you seen these pocket projectors before? Gone are the days that you have to have a several thousand dollar unit mounted from your ceiling. Why not buy a portable, mini projector that works just as well? My husband bought himself a Brookstone Pocket Projector Pro over two years ago and we LOVE it!! We use this portable projector all the time. Not only does it work great in our theater room, but we also take it on every vacation, camping trip and use it in our own yard for summer movies. The uses for this projector are endless. We have had SO much fun using this projector and the kids think it is the greatest thing ever!

Now, because my husband knew we would use our projector all the time, he invested in the more expensive portable projector that is $329 on sale. However, if this is too much of an investment financially, they also offer a slightly lesser quality projector for only $228. Both options would be a perfect Father’s Day gift! Not only for the man in your life, but for the whole family! Seriously, it is SO fun!!

Below is a slightly less expensive projector option. Either one would be great and works with all of your electronic devices (phone, kindel, Ipad, computer, etc.).  Buy one today while they are on sale for these great prices! They are currently $50 less than we even bought them for a couple years ago. Bonus!

Have you heard of Sky Drop before? We showcased this amazing product back during our 12 Days of Giveaways in December. Now that it is time to start watering your lawn and it’s time to get yards in and set up your sprinklers, it’s the perfect time to invest in a SkyDrip controller system. Everything you need to do with your watering system can be done by the touch of your smart phone. You can turn off your sprinklers, set timers for your sprinklers, change your zones in your sprinkling system and how long each station waters and MUCH more! Another great feature is your controller can tell what the weather is in your area. If it rains one day then it will not water your lawn. It can tell exactly how much moisture you have had an change your sprinkler system accordingly–saving you money!

Our friends at SkyDrop are offering an awesome deal of $75.00 off your SkyDrop Controller. This makes the cost of your panel only $224.99 (You can buy 2 controllers at this price). Not only that, but your control will make you eligible for rebates in your area ranging from $100-$480–making your controller totally affordable. Check the links below for more rebate options. Don’t delay! Order your controller today and save $75 (sale price only good through June) using the coupon code ‘dtm’

Links to possible rebates.
For Utah folks, there is a $100 rebate for most places in Utah.
In Southern California, the rebate can often cover the whole cost of the panel or even two panels (up to $480)
if the system has more than 8 zones.
*The panel is EPA WaterSense certified. So any place that offers a rebate for Weather-Based Irrigation Controllers most likely accepts our controller for the rebate.


$50 off regular price!
Are you new to Dropcam? We LOVE our security cameras that hook to our phones. We started off with just one camera and now have them in several different areas of our home. It is so nice to beable to login on our phones and see what our children are doing while we are away. We can also see out to our front porch in case packages are dropped off, or watch the kiddos play in the front yard. No matter where you choose to put these cameras, they are super convenient and bring a great peace of mind. 
These cameras are on sale for Father’s Day for only $149 (regularly $198–that’s a $50 savings!!). This is the best price you will find on this product. It’s the perfect time to buy several for your home security and peace of mind.
Whether your hubby is into emergency preparedness efforts or not, this Sun Oven has been such a fun investment for our family. It feels so great to know we have a cooking source that doesn’t require an energy source–besides the sun. We have made cookies, homemade bread, chili, pizza and many more yummy creations in our Sun Oven. All with just the sunshine in our backyard. This Sun Oven is a great investment to help you on your emergency preparedness path.  When ordering, enter Deals to Meals to get a discount at check out!

$70 OFF! Use code “Dealstomeals” to get $70 off your All American Sun Oven with the Preparedness and Dehydration Package

$50 OFF! Use code “DealstomealsASO” on an All American Sun Oven without accessories. 

This Circle device, that is made from Disney, is a parents best friend! You can control your children’s screen time, filter content and help your family bring balance to their life. Everything about this product is amazing and it’s a great gift for your hubby, as well as your whole family. It’s on sale as well for only $99, so it’s a great time to buy your controller today!

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

 What is not to love about these super cute Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes? My dear friend Ellen made these for her daughter’s birthday party and I wanted to share them with you. If you have a birthday party coming up, or just want a fun, summer treat, this is the recipe for you!

 

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
Cake
  1. I box white cake mix (duncan hines moist deluxe)
  2. made as directed on box. (3 egg whites, water and oil)
To the cake mix batter add
  1. 1/2 cup flour
  2. 1/2 cup sugar to batter
  3. 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  4. 1 tsp almond extract
  5. 1/4 cup sprinkles (if you want funfetti)
  6. 30 cake ice cream cones
  7. 1 jar magic shell ice cream topper
  8. 30 marchino cherries
  9. Sprinkles
  10. 1 recipe Buttercream Frosting
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Using cupcake/muffin tins place cones in the muffin tins and then fill 1/2 up with batter. Do not overfill or you will have a messy nightmare on your hands! (see the picture to gauge how much filling to put in) Bake at 350 for 17-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Now I must admit I tried this a few different ways with carrying results. Some blogs said to put the batter in regular cupcake liners and then bake with the cone upside down on top. This did not work for me, even when I poked a whole in the bottom to let the steam out. Just standing them up worked great when the extra flour was added to the batter, as long as you don't overfill.
  2. Once cooled, frost using absolutely perfect buttercream recipe from this sight. I also learned the hard way that these babies are very top heavy and will not be transported once frosted unless certain precautions are taken. Before frosting them I wrapped the bottoms in strips of crumbled foil then put them back in the muffing tins. This kept them stable for piping the frosting as well as taking them to the party.
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Best Brownie Recipe EVER

 

Happy Memorial Day! I couldn’t be more grateful for the many men and women who have lost their lives and give of their time and talents to serving our country. I am grateful every day to be an American and feel so proud and blessed to live in this great nation. Every aspect of our lives are blessed because of the freedom’s we enjoy in the United States. We couldn’t have that without all of the brave men and women who serve and sacrifice for our country. A HUGE thank you to each of you who serve our country!

And what is more American than a a chewy, chocolaty, homemade brownie?! I have blogged about this recipe before, but wanted to share it with all of you in case you have forgotten about it in the deep, dark, archives of this blog 😉 You will not find a better brownie recipe out there! This recipe is a no fail, easy to make, one pan wonder of a recipe that can’t be beat! Hope you love them as much as we have the past 18 years 😉

 

Best Brownies Ever
Ingredients
  1. 4 sticks butter, room temperature
  2. 4 cup white sugar
  3. 1 cup cocoa powder
  4. 8 eggs
  5. 1 tsp. salt
  6. 3 1/2 cup flour
  7. 1 Tbs. vanilla
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl add the butter. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add the cups of sugar to the butter and continue to mix until all combined and white and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder and continue to mix until smooth. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla and continue to beat until the eggs are incorporated. Add the flour one cup at a time. Mix until combined. Spray a cookie jelly-roll pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan and level with a knife until smooth in the pan. Bake for 28-30 minutes, or until the center of the brownie seems stiff and no longer soft. However, you don't want to over bake the brownies! As they sit for a couple hours, they will harden and become the perfect, chewy texture. When they are finished baking, remove them from the oven and let them rest until ready to serve or frost. You can sprinkle them with powdered sugar, or top with a Buttercream Chocolate Frosting. Mint frosting is also great!
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Happy Mother’s Day!

Just wanted to wish all of you amazing women and mothers a Happy Mothers Day! I’m so grateful for all of the beautiful and inspiring women who have touched my life. I’m also grateful to have the privilege of being a mother to these five kiddos. Hope you’ve had a great day!

Homemade French Bread Video

 
Subscribe to Deals to Meals on YouTube so you don’t miss any of our cooking videos. This is our most popular recipe on our blog {Homemade French Bread}, so we thought we’d show you how simple it is to make. Hope you love it! If you do, pass it along, would ya? Thanks friends!
 
Also, check out our video for Homemade Rainbow Bread--you’re going to love this video too! This bread is the perfect activity this spring.
 
Also, want to see us take on some famous couponers to answer the age old question “To coupon, or not to coupon?” See how much money we saved, and how much easier it was to shop the way we teach on Deals to Meals and STOP clipping those coupons and save BIG money! 

Easter 2016 Family Updates and Traditions

I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend! We had a great time enjoying some of our family’s favorite traditions and spending time in sunny St. George with our extended family. It was great to get away while the kids were out of school and have some quality family time. And of course, eat some delicious food while we were at it 😉

Our Easter traditions are broken up into what our kids call the “Easter Bunny Traditions” and the “Jesus Easter Traditions“. The Saturday before Easter is when we do our family’s easter egg hunts and family parties. We had an extra fun time playing in our brother and sister in laws pool and having the kids dive for Easter eggs (the teenagers love the new addition of money eggs). Todd and his brother always go WAY over the top with candy, but the kids sure love it, so I guess I’ll keep my mouth shut about that 😉

Sunday is my favorite part of Easter where we have a nice Seder (okay, a Mormon-ized version anyway) and we get to talk about the significance of Christ and his life. This time we had this dinner on my sisters farm which was so fun. The kids loved sitting out on a blanket as we talked about the different meanings of the items of food and shared different stories of Jesus. We then went inside for our ‘Passover Feast’ with some Chipotle Chicken (supposed to be lamb ;), Rice Pilaf, Naan Bread, Ham, and you can’t forget He is Risen Rolls. It was a lovely dinner and such a great time with family. And who can forget our Rainbow Bread. This was a highlight for all of the kids. (Hey, have you checked out our YouTube video where I show you exactly how to make this bread? It’s really fun–check it out!).

Check back tomorrow when I share the amazing recipes for some of our favorite Easter dishes we had this past week. All of these recipes will be great to try this spring. Thanks friends and have a great day!

Flashback Friday: “He is Risen Rolls” and Easter Bunny Orange Rolls

Before Easter was here, I wanted to share with you a couple of my favorite past Easter recipes and traditions I thought you might like. I am all about simple around our neck of the woods, but these are traditions we can put together without a lot of effort. Easter wouldn’t be Easter without us making these He is Risen Rolls. The kids love to make them and I love the chance we get to think about our Savior’s resurrection and life.

Have you seen the new amazing, touching videos the LDS church has put out this Easter? These videos are so wonderful and really help teach our families about the true meaning of Easter and our Savior’s life and mission. Everyday this week they have come out with a new video to share with your family that shows the life of our Savior and more about his mission. If you haven’t seen them yet, visit HERE to download these Easter videos.

Also, here is a link to 7 Easy Ways to put Christ in the Center of Your Lives this Easter which was written and published on lds.org.  I loved these ideas!

Another favorite recipe is to make these Orange Easter Bunny Rolls for Easter breakfast or dessert. They are fun to make and the kids love creating their own bunny designs.

Here is a link to a few of our other simple Easter traditions we like to share with our children. I hope you are having a wonderful week and enjoy your weekend with family and friends. I am so thankful for each of you, as well as my Savior Jesus Christ. We lost a good friend today and it has given us a neat opportunity to think about, and ponder on how grateful we are for our Savior Jesus Christ. Because He lived and died for us, we can all be resurrected and return to live with Him someday–along with those we love. That knowledge has brought us much peace today with our sad news. Much to be grateful for, that is for sure.

Happy St. Patricks Day and get cereal for only $1.10 a box!

Dynamic Deals, Deals to Meals, lucky charms on sale, cereal sale

Happy St. Patricks Day everyone! Did you have your breakfast of champions this morning? The one day a year I don’t feel any guilt eating sugar cereal. I loved every bite, and of course had to save all the marshmallows in my bowl til the end. Yum! What would St. Patrick’s Day be without green milk and Lucky Charms for breakfast? It’s not too late to hurry and get you a box at a great price. Visit your local Smiths where they have their General Mills cereal on sale for only $1.49 a box. Plus…if you buy five boxes through the check out line, you will get a $2 off coupon on the next 5 that you purchase. Go back through the store and get another 5 boxes of cereal, use the coupon, and get each box for only $1.10! How’s that for a ‘Lucky’ deal this week?

Login to our website to see the other awesome grocery deals in your area 😉

Hooray!

Hooray–we are out of the snow, and in sunshine and blue sky! Thanks for letting us take a break over here at Deals to Meals and get some much needed (okay, wanted AND needed) time with family. We are loving every minute of sun, good food, and making some great memories. We’ll be back in full swing next week with some more delicious recipes and grocery tips/deals for you. Hope you have a wonderful week! And, don’t worry, all of the deals and new weekly meal plan are all up on our website www.dealstomeals.com. Enjoy!

Valentine’s Desserts: Raspberry Cheesecake, Double Chocolate Bundts, Cherry Chip Brownies & MORE!

How was your weekend? I hope all of you had a great game day weekend. We didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but we had a great time being together and eating lots of good food 😉 Happy for all of you Bronco fans though, it sounded like it was a great game!

Now that the Super Bowl is over, I guess that means we can move onto Valentines Day, right? I love Valentines Day. We are usually in California over Valentines Day, but this year we are home. This is the one holiday we don’t have lots of family traditions for. Shocker, I know! Do any of you have any favorite traditions you could share with me? As long as I go on a date with my hubby, I’m a happy lady! I would love your ideas though to make this day a little more special for our clan 😉

In the mean time, I’ve been dreaming up some of the treats I want to make this week. There are so many yummy valentines day treats. What is Valentines Day without homemade sugar cookies? Or, Chocolate Cherry Brownies. How about some Peppermint Oreo Popcorn for a snack? Or Cherry Chip Fruit Dip? Continue to read this post to get my favorite, Double Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe as well as this recipe for the Peppermint Oreo Popcorn. Yum!!

 
 
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

Double Chocolate Bundt Cake
Chocolate Cake
  1. 1 chocolate cake mix
  2. 1 3oz. instant chocolate pudding mix
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 cup hot fudge topping (like Hershey's or Smuckers)
  5. 1 1/4 cup water
  6. 1/2 cup oil
  7. 1 tsp. vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  2. 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
  3. 1 tsp. vanilla
  4. Dash of salt
  5. 1 lb. powdered sugar
  6. Crushed peppermints (optional) or other topping
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, add the cake mix, chocolate pudding mix and whisk together. Add the eggs, hot duge sauce, water, oil and vanilla to the mix. Whisk together until smooth. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan excessively with non stick cooking spray. Pour the cake mix into the pan evenly around the bundt pan. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center of the cake is cooked through. When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and let rest on the counter for 3-5 minutes. Use a knife and to around the outside of the bundt pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Place a large plate on top of the bundt pan and turn the cake onto the plate. Let the cake rest while you make the frosting.
  2. For the frosting: In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla, salt and powdered sugar and blend until smooth. You may need a teaspoon or so of milk, but wait until the sugar is incorporated before you add that. Continue to whip frosting until peaks form and it is light and fluffy. Place the frosting in a gallon Ziploc bag and cut off the corner of one side of the bag. Squeeze the frosting out of the edge of the bag and drizzle back and forth on top of the cake. Sprinkle with any toppings you would like, or leave the frosting/cake plain.
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Peppermint Oreo Popcorn
Ingredients
  1. 2 microwave bags of natural or healthy popcorn, popped
  2. 1 cup white chocolate almond bark (or high quality white chocolate chips)
  3. 1-2 cups crushed Oreo cookies
  4. Peppermint Candies, crushed
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Pop the popcorn as package directs. Place the white almond bark into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave until the chocolate melts. Stir the chocolate onto the popped popcorn. Add the crushed Oreo candies and the crushed peppermint to the popcorn. Continue to stir until combined. Serve warm or cold.
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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

From our family to yours, we wish you a very, Merry Christmas! May this holiday season be a time when you can slow down and spend some time with those you love and reflect on our Savior and the true meaning of Christmas. We will be spending time with our family and will be excited to post again in 2016! Have a great week and thank you for your support and love.

For all of the updated grocery deals and meal planner, visit our website www.dealstomeals.com. Watch for some great New Year’s deals coming next week! Happy shopping 😉

4 Favorite Christmas Breakfast Casseroles

Cream Cheese French Bread Casserole

What would Christmas morning be without a breakfast casserole? They are super easy to make the night before, throw in the fridge and then bake when you wake up in the morning. By the time you are done opening presents you’ll have a delicious, warm breakfast casserole ready to enjoy 😉 Here are a few of my family’s favorite casserole recipes in case you need a last minute recipe for Christmas morning. Merry Christmas!!

Cheesy Bacon Breakfast Casserole


Sausage Breakfast Casserole


Recipes below…


Sausage Breakfast Casserole


3-4 cups bread, cubed (enough to fill the bottom of the baking dish)
1 lb. sausage
1 onion, diced
2 cups shredded colby jack cheese
1 can diced green chilies
9 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. hot sauce (like Franks sauce)
2-3 Tbs. green onions

Cube the bread into one inch cubes. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the bread pieces into the pan. Dice the onions into pieces. In a saute pan, brown the sausage with the onions until the onions are tender and the sausage is cooked through. Sprinkle the sausage over the bread pieces. Spread the cheese over the sausage and bread evenly. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, green chiles, salt, pepper, hot sauce. Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes. The last 10-15 minutes, remove the foil and bake to lightly brown the top. Once the casserole is finished cooking, sprinkle the green onions on top.

Cheesy Bacon Breakfast Casserole


4-5 cups dried bread, cubed (enough to fill a 9×13 baking dish)
1 lb. bacon
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbs. hot sauce (like Franks sauce)
2 1/2 cups milk
9 eggs
2 cups colby jack cheese, shredded

Cut up the dried bread into one inch cubes. Spray a 9×13 pan generously with non stick cooking spray. Place the dried bread pieces on the bottom of the baking dish. In a saute pan, brown and cook the bacon until completely crispy. Remove the bacon from the bacon grease and set aside on a paper towel. Pour out most of the bacon grease besides a couple tablespoons. Dice the red bell pepper and onions and place in the bacon grease. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook until the peppers and onions are tender. Once they are cooked, add the green onions and season with the salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and let the vegetables rest while you make the egg mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and hot sauce until smooth. Crumble the bacon into small pieces and sprinkle over the dried bread. Spread the cooked vegetable mixture over the bacon. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top as well. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the casserole. Cover with tinfoil and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until the casserole is set and no longer runny (but don’t over bake or it can dry out). This casserole can also stay in the fridge over night and be baked the next morning if you wish.

Cream Cheese Maple Breakfast Casserole


3-4 cups dried bread, cubed (enough to fill a 9×13 pan)
8 oz. cream cheese
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
Topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cut the bread into bite sized pieces and place in a greased 9×13 pan. With your fingers, break off pieces of cream cheese and place all over the top of the bread in small blobs. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until smooth. Once this mixture is smooth, pour over the bread evenly. In a bowl, combine together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the casserole. Cover with tinfoil and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until set. Serve casserole with more maple syrup on top or whipped cream. You can also add fresh fruit on top if you wish.

Christmas Cranberry Craze! Cranberry Salsa, Cranberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding and More!

What would Christmas be without the sweet and sour flavor of cranberry? Cranberry is one of my favorite holiday flavors. Today I wanted to share with you some of my many, favorite cranberry recipes. Whether you are looking for an appetizer, a main dish or a dessert, we have a cranberry recipe for you! Enjoy 😉

 

Cranberry Salsa and Cream Cheese Dip (recipe below)

Cranberry BBQ Meatballs (recipe below)

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

Fresh Cranberry Sauce 
 


 


 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

Recipes below…

Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip
Ingredients
  1. 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
  2. 1/2 c. green onions, chopped
  3. 1 jalapeno, stem removed (if you like heat, add two)
  4. 1 bunch cilantro
  5. 1 t. cumin
  6. 1 c. sugar
  7. Juice of one lime (about 2-3 Tbs.)
  8. 8 oz. block cream cheese
  9. Tortilla chips or snack crackers
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. In a food processor (or by hand) coarsley chop first four ingredients. Then add cumin, sugar and lime juice. Pulse to desired consistency. Spread the cranberry salsa over the cream cheese when ready to serve. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.
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Cranberry BBQ Meatballs
Ingredients
  1. 1-2 cups of the leftover cranberry salsa (recipe above)
  2. 1-2 cups favorite bbq sauce
  3. 1-2 lbs. meatballs (homemade or store bought)
  4. Cilantro, chopped (optional garnish)
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Prepare the meatballs as package describes (or make from scratch). In a bowl, combine together the cranberry salsa and bbq sauce together. Once the meatballs are cooked through and golden brown, add the bbq sauce mixture to the meatballs. Heat the meatballs and sauce until warmed through. Place the meatballs on a plate and serve with toothpicks for easy serving. Garnish with the chopped cilantro.
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Sweet Cranberry Butter Spread
Ingredients
  1. 1 tsp. brown sugar
  2. 1 tsp. vanilla
  3. 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
  4. 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  5. 1 tsp. orange zest
  6. 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  7. 1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, whip together the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, zest and condensed milk. Add the zest, fresh cranberries and nuts. Keep at room temperature when ready to serve butter with warm rolls.
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Fresh Orange Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients
  1. 1 package fresh cranberries
  2. Zest of 1/2 an orange
  3. 2-3 T. orange juice
  4. 1/2-3/4 c. sugar (depending how sweet you like it)
  5. 1/4 t. ginger powder
  6. Dash of salt
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients into a sauce pan and let simmer until the cranberries break down and soften. Mash the cranberries with a potato masher until the sauce is still chunky, but a little more smooth. Remove sauce from heat and let cool. Serve fresh cranberry sauce with cooked turkey, in wraps or with chicken.
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White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cranberries
Bread Pudding
  1. 5-6 cups dried bread, cut into one inch cubes
  2. 1 cup dried cranberries
  3. 12 oz. bag white chocolate chips
  4. 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  5. 3 cups milk
  6. 2 Tbs. vanilla
  7. 1/2 cup orange juice
  8. Pinch salt
  9. 8 eggs
  10. 1 cup white sugar
White Chocolate Sauce
  1. 12 oz. white chocolate chips
  2. 1 1/2-2 cups whipping cream
  3. 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  4. Fresh or canned cranberry sauce (optional for topping)
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Cut up the bread into one inch pieces. Spray a 11x14 pan heavily with non-stick cooking spray. Place the bread pieces in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the dried cranberries all over the top of the bread. Sprinkle the bag of white chocolate chips on top of the bread as well. In a bowl, whisk together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, orange juice, pinch of salt, eggs and sugar until smooth and creamy. Pour this mixture over the bread evenly until all bread pieces are covered. Cover the dish with tinfoil. You can keep the pudding in the fridge for up to 48 hours, or you can bake it right away. When ready to bake, bake the pudding at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. The last 10 minutes of baking, remove the tin foil and let the top of the pudding get golden brown. While the pudding is cooking, make the white chocolate sauce. In a sauce pan, pour the whipping cream and heat on medium-high heat for a couple minutes until the cream gets nice and hot. Then, add the white chocolate and turn down the heat to low heat. Stir the chocolate and whipping cream together until creamy and smooth. Add the vanilla. Remove from the heat and let stand at room temperature until pudding comes out of the oven. When pudding is firm and cooked through, remove from the oven. Cut a slice and top with homemade or store bough cranberry sauce and top with the white chocolate sauce.
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Annual Charity Bake Sale 2015–A great success!

Another charity bake sale down and we had a RIOT! This has been a tradition in our neighborhood for 4 years now and it is the highlight of my year. It is so fun to see the entire neighborhood come together for a good cause. Not to mention there is SO much delicious food you don’t even know what to do! From Peppermint Brownies, to Pumpkin Bread, to Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls, Pulled Pork Sandwiches from our good friends barbecue business, Butterscotch Cookie Bars, Peanut Butter Bars, Cinnamon Rolls, hot dogs, nachos and MORE. We ate until we were sick, had a great time chatting and were thrilled when we earned $2000! It was a great night and I can’t wait to share a few new recipes with you (tomorrow). For now, I need to tackle the pile of dishes in my sink! Thank you to all those who supported this great event 😉

Happy Memorial Day

I am so grateful for all the selfless soldiers and their families who give their lives so valiantly for our freedom. We have so much to be thankful for on this Memorial Day and I hope we all say extra prayers of gratitude for the amazing country we live in. Feeling so blessed tonight! God bless America!

“He is Risen” Rolls and Five SIMPLE Easter Traditions

 

Around our house, if things aren’t simple, they just don’t get done. It’s annoying but true. There are days I beat myself up over the fact I am not a ‘Pintrest’ kind of Mom, but other days, I have to just remember the advice of a wise person who said, “Just do the best you can”. Every year Easter comes around I have dreams of doing some extravagant, Christ-centered craft, activity, devotional, etc. and then the holiday just sneaks up on me. Is it just me, or do you feel like there are rarely enough hours in the day? So..simple is what we are about this year for Easter. In the end, it really is about just being with family and focusing on our Savior, right? Why is it that the world makes us feel like if we aren’t crafty-trendy-and cutsie that we’re not good enough? Sometimes the pressure to be a super-Mom just about drives me crazy.

Idea #1 He Is Risen Rolls

So, I am here to simplify your Easter traditions and hopefully give you some easy ideas you can whip together without much effort (or time). One of our family’s favorite Easter treats, are to make “He is Risen” Rolls. They have four ingredients, can be thrown together in just a couple minutes and make a really fun treat for this weekend. The kids love how the marshmallow disappears and it’s a great way to talk about Christ’s resurrection. Not to mention, these rolls actually taste great too 😉

He Is Risen Rolls
Ingredients
  1. 2 packages crescent rolls
  2. 16 large marshmallows
  3. 1 cup chocolate chips
  4. Cinnamon and Sugar
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Instructions
  1. Open up the crescent roll package and lay flat on the counter. Cut the triangles to separate them all. In the center of each crescent triangle, place a large marshmallow and chocolate chips. Fold up the sides of the crescent dough to try and cover the marshmallow and chocolate chips the best you can. It doesn't have to look pretty, just cover everything up. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray, or muffin tins, and place the rolls onto (or into) the pan/muffin tins. In a bowl, combine some sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle a generous portion of cinnamon/sugar over the tops of each of the rolls. Bake the rolls at 350 for 12-14 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top. You don't want to over cook them or they become dry. Just enough to melt the marshmallow and have the dough puff up. Remove from the oven and open them up. The kids will love the fact the marshmallow is disappeared. So cool!
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Idea #2 Simple Easter Banner
 

Second idea–make a simple Easter banner. This is something I made years ago that we just pull out every Palm Sunday (the Sunday prior to Easter). I just bought these pictures of Christ online for $3.50, laminated the ones that represented Christ’s last week of His mortal life and strung them up with some ribbon. You could make this cuter and fancier…but like we said, we’re talking simple today. Every year, I take the pictures off the ribbon and the kids have fun trying to put the events of Christ’s life in order. We then string the pictures back up, hang them on our entertainment center and enjoy looking at the pictures and thinking about Christ throughout the week.

Idea #3 Inspirational Videos and Messages about Christ

No matter what religion you are part of, you will LOVE these videos about Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) have put together Bible Videos about Christ’s life and ministry that are truly beautiful. Every few days we have been trying to watch a few of these videos that go with the ‘day’ of the week. Here is a link to some of these Easter videos that help our families understand why we celebrate Easter.

My all-time favorite talk given on Christ and this Easter season is given by an apostle of our church named Elder Holland. If you want to listen to this inspiring message, here it is 😉 It’s so powerful and beautiful. These videos help you feel the true meaning of this season–much more than any cute craft 😉

Idea #4 Watch the Ten Commandments

Watch the Ten Commandments. I know many people probably wouldn’t want to sit through this 3 1/2 hour video, but we LOVE it! It probably somewhat sentimental for me. My family growing up always watched this movie, had popcorn and snuggled in blankets. We have an Easter movie-marathon and even our youngest kids love this video. They laugh a little at the special effects, but it’s still a fun tradition we would be sad without 😉

Idea #5 Simplified Passover Meal

For those of you with a little more time on your hands, it is a really fun idea to have your own family’s ‘Passover Dinner’. My Mom was an amazing Mom who tried and culture us as teenagers. She would bring us to a Passover Dinner at BYU and we really didn’t appreciate it. The fresh parsley and unleavened bread was never a favorite part of our Easter. Now that I’m older, I can appreciate the significance and I think it’s a great way to teach your kids about Easter and it’s symbolism. Now, if you want something SUPER simplified, this is what my sister does (and we’ve done) that is really easy to put together. Here is what our menu looks like–you can really put together anything that your family would like. The idea is to talk about the symbols of the meal, not necessarily needing to eat specific foods (for us anyway 😉

Italian Teriyaki Chicken Skewers (instead of lamb)–being on a skewer, they seem kind of rustic
Naan Bread–yes, it’s not unleavened, but it’s a fun bread to eat with skewered chicken. You could just buy thin wraps or tortillas if you don’t have time to make bread
Boiled Eggs–deviled eggs are yummy and easy to make
Bitter Herbs–horseradish (you can make a yummy dip with horseradish and sour cream for the chicken)
Charoseth–chopped apples, cinnamon and sugar (applesauce works great)
Karpas–fresh parsley dipped in salt water
Grape juice-representing the wine that Christ served during his last supper

Such a fun dinner idea for your family. I promise they will remember this forever! Just like my sisters and I do with my Mom. These are things to me worth putting some extra time into. But still, keep it simple. If you have nice China, this is a fun night to decorate your table fancy or everyone dress up like shepherds. You could do as much or as little as you want with this tradition 🙂

Here is our ‘Passover Meal’ from 2016. I share an additional menu idea for Chipotle Chicken Skewers–also a yummy option!

 

 

Life Changing Moments

Hi friends! If you haven’t noticed it has been a couple week’s since I last posted on my blog. It’s amazing how life can change in the blink of an eye. For those of you who follow me on instagram, probably have heard about the hard last several days our family has had. For those who haven’t heard, I am going to share some experiences that have been traumatic and life changing for our family…and yet, so beautiful and wonderful at the same time. If you come to my blog for recipes, feel free to skip over this post. However, if you want a glimpse into our life and would be so kind as to allow me to share my heart with you, I would love you to join me on this journey.

I have a confession. I am an awful journal keeper! I think the last time I wrote in my journal was over a year ago. Thus, the reason I have a blog. Although my kids won’t be able to look back on my blog and know the ins and outs of their life as a child, they will hopefully know they were well loved, well fed and they had a Mom who wanted to document some of my most important memories and experiences with them. For the rest of you, I appreciate your patience as I every now and then, share moments in our life that I feel I will want to remember in the future. So, when the day comes (hopefully when we are old and gray) and Deals to Meals seises to exist, my recipes and most memorable moments will live on. That’s my hope anyway 😉

Well, last week was one of those weeks that seem to stop you in your tracks and make you take a good, long look at your life and put things into perspective. This crazy journey began a week ago Saturday. Our youngest son Blake has always had respiratory problems. He was hospitalized with RSV when he was 9 months old and it was a very frightening experience as a mother. After a week he finally improved and was able to come home. Since that time, he has suffered with respiratory problems nearly every month of his life. He was misdiagnosed for awhile but we eventually found out he has a severe case of asthma. Well, last Saturday he came down with a fever and began having breathing trouble. We tried the ‘usual’ asthma methods to help him get better to no avail. Monday morning I frantically called his pediatrician and got him into be seen. They immediately hooked him up to an oxygen tank and gave him breathing treatments. We stayed at the doctor’s office for 5-6 hours, while they tried to watch him and see if he was okay. They finally decided to send us home with hundreds of dollars of antibiotics, medicine and had Home Health bring us oxygen tanks to keep his oxygen up until he got better. They found he had pneumonia, the flu and rhino virus (how is that for an awful combination! Poor kid).
For two nights I couldn’t sleep. I slept by him, watched his breathing and just about went crazy not knowing what I could do to help him. I brought him back each day to the doctors office and they sent me home with a different ‘solution’ or method to try to help his breathing. On Wednesday I took my other two kids to the same doctor and found out they had Strep Throat and the Flu. At this point, all five of our children were sick with the flu. Blake was just the most sick and couldn’t even lift his head off of his pillow. I had that gut-instinct that knew something was wrong. However, we have some of the most horrific insurance there could be (it stinks to be self employed!) So, we knew any amount of time in the emergency room and/or hospital would cost $10000 without blinking an eye. Of course, our child is worth WAY more than that, but it does make you have to stop and think when is it ‘necessary’ that we go in.

After several hours watching my son and my heart practically breaking because he was so uncomfortable, we called the doctor and said we couldn’t take it anymore. He needed to be admitted to the hospital. He agreed, met us there and we drove as fast as we could. On the way to the hospital our son began grabbing his throat saying that he was choking. This of course wigged me out as a mom and told my husband to drive faster (if that was even possible). We got him admitted, they hooked him up to oxygen, got an iv going and hurried and took some x-rays. At this point my sweet little four year old boy was screaming in pain (not like him at all!). What seemed like an eternity, the doctor came back in with tears in his eyes saying he was sorry but he had bad news (not what parents want to hear). The x-rays showed that Blake’s lungs were basically in respiratory failure and his body cavity, neck, and sides were filled with air. Air was being released from his lungs and it was filling his body cavity. Come to find out, when air is inside your body, it is excruciating and it gives the person the feeling they are drowning from the inside out. No wonder my son was so distraught. At this point, my prayers were growing in intensity and I really didn’t know what to say. The doctor said they were going to life flight our son to Primary Children’s Hospital ICU (one of the best children’s hospitals in the world). I was grateful he was going there because I knew he would get the very best care possible. However, I would not be able to stay with my son on a helicopter so they chose to have him go by ambulance.

The awesome EMT’s (they were fantastic!) came, put him on a stretcher and drove him (and me) to Primary’s as quickly as they could. They had to give my son lots of morphine to keep him still so his lungs wouldn’t collapse from him coughing so hard. My husband drove behind us and actually beat us to the hospital (I told you..he drives fast ;).  Once we got to the ICU it was like I was watching a movie. There were doctors and nurses everywhere. The ICU was filled with sick children, parents crying, machines everywhere and the commotion was unlike anything I have ever experienced. By this point it was almost midnight and I had not slept in two days. My body was starting to give out and I felt like I was going to faint. I prayed that I would be able to be strong and be able to hold it together for my son and husband. It was heart wrenching watching them work on my son’s little body. They were trying every machine, every medicine and everything they could think of to try and stabilize him. His oxygen and heart rate was way off the charts and his body was in complete distress. Nothing was seeming to work. Not to mention, he was still ballistic with pain and there was nothing I could do other than sit there and watch him scream. For those of you who have been in experiences where your children are crying out in pain and you have to just sit there and watch, it is utterly unbearable. It is like your stomach and throat get all tied up in knots and you feel like you are choking.  Suffocating.

At this point all I could think was I need to pray. I needed a quite, peaceful place to talk to my Heavenly Father. My husband and I both were craving that solace that comes through prayer but it was no where to be found. The ICU was so packed that we were already sharing a room with another little girl who had crying and upset family as well. The noise level was insane. I decided to go to the restroom to try and find some peace and quite. I went around the corner, locked the door and poured my heart out to God. I knew he was listening. I knew he knew my son’s situation and I knew he was watching over us and would help me through this experience. This knowledge didn’t take the pain away, but it helped bring me comfort to know I had reached out to my Heavenly Father and he would hear my prayers.

The next several hours are a blur. There was no sleep to be had. My husband tried to close his eyes for a couple hours, but as a Mom, I’m not sure that would be possible. My eyes were glued to my son’s vitals machine and my heart sunk every time alarms went off and he was not doing well. Through the night I prayed. I prayed practically for 8 hours straight. There was nothing else my mind could focus on. I sang hymns in my mind to bring me comfort and then I prayed some more. I thought of my Savior Jesus Christ, who in the Garden of Gethsemane, had endured all of the pains of the entire world. I knew through his Atonement that he had already taken upon him the pains that I was feeling. In that moment I felt and appreciated his sacrifice more than I ever had before. It was one of the most tender and special experiences of this week. I truly felt his arms around me and I knew He would be with me–no matter what happened to my son.

The next morning (which felt like an eternity!!) the doctors were still concerned about his breathing. Several doctors gathered around him and were debating whether they should put him on a ventilator/life support. They had increased his oxygen rates all night and that was the last thing to do. Hearing those words felt like a dagger had been shoved through my heart. I felt like it was an out of body experience. I wanted to scream out…”Don’t you know you are talking about my son?! He is not a number. He is not just any patient. He is my sweet, happy, smiley four year old boy. He can not be hooked up to life support and become a vegetable!” It took all I had to just sit there, squeezing Todd’s hand and trying not to fall onto the floor in a puddle of tears. We both were praying that this would not be the outcome. Just at that time they announced over the intercom that they were having a ICU parent lunch. That was the last thing I wanted to go to, but my husband had a feeling we should go. He practically drug me along (out of my wallowing) and we went into a room with several parents who had children in the ICU. We talked to different parents who were going through similar tragedies as we were and others who had things much worse. One couple had been in there with their son (who was born with half of a heart) for several weeks. They said they won’t be going home for up to a year–and that was if he survived. Another mother was in the ICU with her son who had the flesh eating disease. They had already removed his fingers and toes and there were surgeons ready to remove his face (what?!?!). How horrific! These parents had teared filled eyes but were strong. In that moment it was as if we were able to gain strength from them. We saw their courage, their faith and it buoyed our spirits. As we walked back into our sons small room it felt different. Nothing had changed with our son, but it helped give us a major dose of perspective. No matter what happened to our son, we knew we would not be alone in tragedy. People lose their children. They hold onto their faith, they put their trust in an all-knowing Heavenly Father and they continue on. Todd and I finally were given some peace that whatever happened, we would be okay. After that, we tried to make the most of the day. We tickled our son’s legs, rubbed his cute, squishy cheeks, told him we loved him (although at this state he was basically sedated into an induced comma) and treasured every moment we had with him.

That night we had a tender mercy given to us. As the day progressed my son’s vitals started to stabilize. The machines were doing all of the work for his lungs, but he was at least getting to a more ‘normal’ range. Our prayers were answered that it looked like the ventilator wasn’t going to have to happen. At this point, I hadn’t slept in three days and I knew I had to try and rest. My husband and I cuddled up on the chair (that was about 2 feet wide) and we went to sleep. The nurses (George…I love you!), were so amazing and took complete care of Blake. They loved him and treated him like they would their own son (every nurse we had became angels to us!!). We finally got a few hours of sleep and woke up feeling optimistic. There was nothing to technically be optimistic about, but we just felt lighter. It was Thursday that we began being inundated with texts, emails and people calling to let us know they were praying for us. We began hearing about hundreds (probably even thousands) of people who were praying for our son. Hearing about all of these prayers–many from strangers) was so humbling. There are so many wonderful people in this world. No matter what faith you are, prayers are heard and I know that to be true. Also, I realized the power that comes from collective prayer. We have experienced this before with other family members who needed prayers, but this was the first time I had felt this for myself. We physically were lifted and elevated from the dark, sad place we were, to a lighter, happier place. Our outlook was brighter. Our burdens felt like they were being carried for us and I was reminded of a scripture that has become my new favorites.

Mosiah 24: 12-18 (from The Book of Mormon)

12. And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
13. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort.
14. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as a witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
15. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
16. And so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you.

I felt the truth of these verses in those moments. We put our faith in God and he in turn, help strengthen us to carry the burden of possibly losing our son. At the same time, we trusted that if it was His will, we knew he could perform a miracle and save our son.

Friday morning (having been in ICU about 32 hours) will be a moment I will never forget. The respiratory therapist came to wash my sons face and give his face a break from the bi-pap machine. Any time his oxygen mask was removed in the past day and half, Blake’s oxygen levels would plummet and it became all-out-emergency mode in the ICU. The therapist was nervous to take off his mask, but had a back-up oxygen mask to give him the few seconds he needed to clean his face. He hurried and took off the mask (working frantically), washed his face and then went to put the mask back on before his oxygen levels dropped too far. Right as he went to put it back on, he realized he lost the spongy-fabric that went on my sons forehead. He started to panic and began looking all over the bed and on my son. He couldn’t find it anywhere. You could tell he began to be nervous because he knew he only had a few seconds to get the mask back on Blake. All of a sudden, we looked at his vital-machine and his oxygen number was 93. Time seemed to stand still. It was like we all were in shock. His heart beat began to drop dramatically and his respiratory rate was dropping as well (that’s a good thing ;). We all stared at that number of 93 in disbelief and the respiratory therapist said, “What is happening? He is NOT on any oxygen”. We all stood there, not daring to move. More nurses and doctors came in and pretty soon we all couldn’t help but laugh in disbelief. Blake, who had just hours before been on a machine that was doing 80% of his breathing for him, was now breathing room air with no assistance and his numbers were perfect.

The next hour we all just sat around watching those numbers. From that moment on (our ‘miracle moment’ we’ve called it), his oxygen remained in a perfect range (93-98). After an hour they said, “we have to release you from the ICU–his breathing is too perfect, we can’t keep him in here any longer”. All of the doctors and RT were in complete shock. They all said several times they had never seen a child go from a bi-pap machine to breathing room air in a matter of seconds. Usually this process takes days to months to achieve and here my son was breathing without any assistance after nearly passing away just a day before. My heart was overflowing with love and gratitude. As soon as my husband and I could, we went and found a quite room, locked the door and poured out our hearts in gratitude to Heavenly Father. We knew He showed forth His hand and saved our son. We’re not sure why it wasn’t his time to go, but we do know that if it weren’t for prayer, the faith of so many, our son would not be here today.

With in an hour, we were walking away from that small, dark and terrifying ICU room we called home for a couple days. As we left, I had the saddest feeling that we were leaving a sacred place. As my husband walked out, he had an overwhelming feeling that angels were there bidding us farewell and that our son would now be okay. We felt families prayers and love from this side of the veil to the other. This was a sweet and tender moment for all of us.

The remaining 24 hours we spent playing, snuggling and loving on Blake. We could hardly keep ourselves off of him. It was so fun to have him removed from all of his chords and IV’s. He was having a hay-day. The sweet nurses brought him any treat he wanted, he got to watch t.v., read stories, play games, build legos, etc. He kept saying, “I don’t want to go home”. We could not believe our eyes. The nurses and doctors on the regular floor could not believe he was ICU a few hours earlier. He looked and was acting completely healthy and normal. We had literally seen a miracle.

There really aren’t words to describe the emotions of this past week. We went from mourning the loss of our youngest son, to the elation of having him back with us in full health. We are not sure why we were given this miracle when there are so many who pray and don’t receive the answers they are hoping for. I wish we had the answers to these questions but we don’t. All I know, is God is real. He is good. He has a grand plan and purpose for each of us. If we pray to Him, we will be heard. We will be given the direction, support, strength and understanding we need. It may not always make sense now, but as we pray, we will be able to feel the love he has for us. This week has taught me so many things. I feel like I have learned more in this past week than I have in most of my life combined. For that I am grateful. Afflictions have a way of teaching us the things we need to learn in a more powerful and heartfelt way than any other method ever could. I am truly thankful for this trial and this experience. I hope it will make me a better mother, a more supportive friend, to have more empathy for those going through loss and a more faithful servant of Heavenly Father. I promised God that if he saved my son I would ‘stand as a witness’ and testify to others of His mercy and love. Thank you for letting me share this journey we have been on. I know we all don’t have the same beliefs and go through all different trials in our life. Hopefully we can all reach out to those who are suffering. Be a little more kind. Pray for others a little more sincerely and find more ways to serve. People around us need love and we can be an instrument in our Heavenly Father’s hands by reaching out to his children.

Thank you again for all of your prayers, concern, emails, acts of service and love shown to our family this week. It means more than we can ever express!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I am so thankful for each of you and all of your support throughout this past year. I truly hope you have a wonderful Christmas and have time to spend with those you love most. I am so thankful for a loving Savior who came to this earth to take upon Him the sins of this world, and bring hope and joy to all of us. I love this video called The Gift, and I hope we can all take a few moments this season and focus on the true meaning of Christmas. This video is a great way to teach our children about our Savior. May God bless each of you this Christmas week!

*Picture is from Greg Olsen..it’s my favorite 😉

8 Tips to Plan and Host a SIMPLE and INEXPENSIVE Christmas Party!

 love to party! I love hosting. I love people and I love having people over to our house. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. However, I am not a cutsie-crafty-pintresty-kind of gal. I am WAY too cheap for that 😉 This is the time of year many of us are thinking about, or planning Christmas parties. I wanted to share with you 8 tips that help me stay sane this time of year, and have helped throw hundreds of SIMPLE parties. Christmas parties are my favorite, so I will focus on Christmas parties in general but the tips could work for any time of year. The key is to keep it simple and focus on good food and structuring the party so your guests have a fun time. I don’t stress about having the perfect house, or making things look super cute. Who has extra money this time of year to throw fancy-shmancy parties? Not me 😉 Just be yourself and throw a party that gets people together to enjoy this special time of year–and no matter what you do it will be success!
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So, here is how I throw our Annual Adult Christmas Party without ANY fuss and headache 🙂
Cost of the party…under $25
*Invitations: EVITE–not as personal, but totally easy and free 😉
*Don’t stress about the food yourself. We have each couple who comes bring an appetizer or dessert to share with everyone. I usually will make 3 or 4 that I double and make extras of the month before. I then freeze them until the day of the party, which cuts down on prep time the day of the party. If you have enough people coming to your party, you will have plenty of food to feed the whole group.
*Decorations–don’t go crazy, keep it simple. No one really cares and they add up quickly if you’re not careful. Some key things I make sure I have are cute plates, napkins and cups. They set the color scheme for the event and help make things look nice.  After that, a nice tablecloth and centerpiece and you’re good 😉 Once the food is on the tables no one really will be noticing the decorations.
*White Elephant–who doesn’t love a good white elephant party? We do this every year and it is the highlight of the party! We laugh so hard our face hurts. The bigger, crazier the better. This year the big hit was a huge candy dispenser (the kind you see at stores). It was hilarious that everyone was fighting over it. Have each person who comes to your party bring a white elephant gift wrapped. We all draw numbers, make the rule that each gift has a maximum steals of 3 and then it’s frozen. You can also play this game with dice if you have less people.
*Ugly Sweater Contest--not a necessity but it sure is funny 🙂 We have a small gift for the winner.
*Charity–there isn’t a better time of year than Christmas to work together for a good cause. In our neighborhood we started 6 years ago the tradition of NOT doing neighborhood gifts. Instead, we all donate to a local cause. This year we all rallied together for a family who lost their father. It was amazing to see people’s generosity and it felt good to all of us to help someone in need. 
*Christmas Questionnaire–My husband is a huge Excel and Powerpoint fan and always has an annual questionnaire. He just has about 30 random Christmas questions/trivia that people have to answer. We then have prizes for the winners (candy bars, small monetary gift cards, etc.). It’s fun to see people get competitive and have a fun time trying to remember all the answers to simple questions that we should know but forget (like ‘On the 9th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me_____). Simple questions like those get people laughing and talking and makes for a simple game/activity.  
*Make it a tradition. Starting traditions in a neighborhood are important. It gives people things to look forward to and it brings unity to your community. Pick a certain weekend that works for you, that you can do every year. The Saturday after Thanksgiving so far has worked perfectly for us. It’s fun that we all look forward to this party now each year. You may only have a few people the first time you throw a party. But each year, it will get bigger and bigger. We are now up to just shy of 45 people and it is a blast! The more the merrier is my philosophy 😉
With these simple methods, this Christmas party is a synch to plan and throw. Other than cleaning my bathrooms (my least favorite thing to do), this party can be planned in less than an hour.  Merry Christmas!

ABC Gratitude Game

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2GlPW5TKJfmb1U2MkFPa0x6T00/view?usp=sharing

If you want a really simple and fun Thanksgiving game, this Gratitude chart is really fun. Have you played Scattagories before? My kids and I love that game and so we decided to create a holiday version. It’s really fun! The idea is simple. All you have to do is print off one of the above pages per person. In five minutes (or longer if you are playing with young children), see how many words you can write down for each letter of the alphabet, of things you are thankful for. When you are done, compare everyone’s words and have each person cross out any duplicates they may have written down that matched other people’s. The person with the most words that were not duplicated wins. It’s a great way to brainstorm all of the many blessings we have been given. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow 🙂 I am truly thankful for each of you!

Uplifting Messages

Loved this weekend! Such a wonderful few days to sit with my family and enjoy uplifting messages from our church leaders. Here are some of the highlights my children remembered and I loved. We always gather together the Monday after Conference to put together a subway art of the messages we want to remember. We then hang it on our fridge for the next six months to help us  think about areas in our life we want to work on. Even though this world is pretty scary and wicked, it’s a great reminder that there is always hope through Jesus Christ. SO much to be grateful for 😉

Mom’s Best Meatloaf

Deals to Meals Updates, Holiday Favorites, Recipe: Main Dish, Recipe: Beef, Recipe: Turkey, Recipe: Pork, comfort food, Easy Meal Ideas, Freezer Meals, Recipe: Freezer Meals, Mom's Best Meatloaf
Since today is my Mom’s 60th birthday I thought I would post about one of her recipes that is my all-time favorite. This recipe for her meatloaf has been around for a long time and I have to say it’s the best I’ve ever had. Meatloaf is one of those things that you have to be leary of eating. Some people just plain don’t know how to make it. I have tried many sub-par meatloafs in my life and I have to say my Mom wins the award for the best. My Mom is one of those people that lives by the motto of ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without’.  She rarely throws anything away. She is the master at seeing what is in her fridge and being able to whip together amazing dishes with random ingredients. I know I got most of my cooking skills and shopping know-how from her. She was an amazing teacher and helped me learn the importance of frugal living and everything prudent. 
 

It is that frugality that makes this meatloaf so wonderful. She would make this every summer when vegetables from the garden were ripe. The chopped carrots, zucchini and peppers is what makes this meatloaf so moist and full of flavor. If your kids don’t like vegetables, I promise they will in this recipe! They won’t even know they are in there. One of the best aspects of her meatloaf is the sauce on top. It is a sweet and tangy barbeque-type sauce that makes every bite so amazing–so much better than plain ketchup or regular bbq sauce.

If you have carrots, zucchini, onions or peppers in your garden, this is the perfect dish for you to make! The best part is, this meatloaf recipe makes two loaf pans of meatloaf. You can either freeze one for another meal or use the second pan for meatloaf sandwiches (our family’s favorite!).

Deals to Meals Updates, Holiday Favorites, Recipe: Main Dish, Recipe: Beef, Recipe: Turkey, Recipe: Pork, comfort food, Easy Meal Ideas, Freezer Meals, Recipe: Freezer Meals, Mom's Best Meatloaf
Mom's Meatloaf
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  2. 1/4 cup zucchini, shredded
  3. 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  4. 1/2 large red onion (or 1 small), chopped
  5. 1/2 cup chili sauce (found in the ketchup aisle)
  6. 1 egg
  7. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 1 tsp. oregano
  9. Dash cayenne pepper
  10. 1 Tbls. Montreal Steak Seasoning
  11. 1/2 cup panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)
  12. 2 lbs. lean ground beef or ground turkey
  13. 1 lb. ground beef or pork sausage
Sauce
  1. 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  2. 2 Tbls. mustard
  3. 1/3 cup brown sugar
  4. Dash cayenne pepper
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop and dice all of the vegetables. In a large mixing bowl, place the ground beef (or turkey) and ground pork. Add the vegetables and remaining ingredients and mix until well combined. Place half of the meat mixture into a bread loaf pan. Add the remaining meatloaf into the second pan. If you are baking both meatloaves place the meatloaves in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the top of the meatloaf is a dark brown color (I like the top of my meatloaf to have a little crust to add flavor. If yours is not getting this, you can always broil the meatloaf for a minute or two--just watch it carefully so it doesn't burn). When meatloaves are beginning to look done, remove them from the oven and carefully drain off as much grease as you can from the meatloaves. Prepare the sauce by whisking together all of the ingredients in a bowl and spread half of the sauce over each meatloaf. Return the pans to the oven and continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble and brown on the edges. Serve meatloaf warm.
  2. If you are saving a meatloaf as a freezer meal, just cover with tinfoil and place in the freezer for up to one year.
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Charity Bake Sale 2014-Best Cinnamon Rolls & Pesto Cheese Rolls

Another fantastic bake sale has come to an end. This is one of my favorite nights of the entire year. Besides the fact that all of the proceeds of our bake sale go to a local family in need, it is so fun to get together with neighbors and enjoy each other’s company. The kids love to run around and play while the adults get to visit and enjoy the summer night. All around it was a perfect event and I am so thankful to everyone who brought such DELICIOUS food and came to support such a great cause. I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful and wonderful area with so many family and friends. Love you all!!! Here are a few highlights of our night and some of my favorite recipes 😉

We had the biggest selection and most amazing food options than we have ever had. We live around some outstanding cooks! Do you see those cute trifles in the bottom corner. My friend Missy makes them every year and they are amazing! They are homemade brownie, whipped cream, and strawberries. The combo is fantastic! Of course my sister’s Peppermint Brownies are always a hit and this year she even made up a batch of Jalapeño Cheese Rolls with our favorite French Bread recipe. Those were a HUGE hit! I also made Raspberry Rolls which were great and my friend made some amazing Lemon Custard Cupcakes (I’m hoping to get the recipe from her ;).

I have to admit that one of my favorite new additions to the bake sale was these Pesto Cheese Rolls I made. I sold them with homemade pizza sauce and the cheesy-garlicky rolls dipped in sauce were fabulous! These rolls are simple to make. Just make up a batch of our French Bread Recipe and then roll out like you would a batch of cinnamon rolls. On the inside, spread around a pesto filling of 1/2 cup pesto, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and one stick of butter. Spread the majority of the pesto/butter spread on the inside of the roll. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, roll up and bake. Once they come out of the oven, brush with the remaining pesto butter and serve warm.

My dear friend Camille moved to Japan last year and she used to always bring her famous Cinnamon Rolls to our bake sale. Since she was gone, I made these cinnamon rolls in memory of her. We miss you Camille!! No one can make these rolls as well as her, but I have to say I came pretty darn close today. I can’t think of anything better than a cinnamon roll right out of the oven. Simply perfection! If you have never tried our recipe for these cinnamon rolls, you need to look no farther. This recipe is a masterpiece.


Well, after a long day of baking, setting up and hosting the bake sale we ended the night with my friend Betsy and I being soaked with ice water. Shockingly (I must live in a cave?!?) it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that I heard about the ice bucket challenge/mania going on. One of my cute young women from our church challenged my friend and I to do the ice bucket challenge. We of course agreed and so they took the cooler with water and ice which held the drinks for the bake sale and dumped it on us. I was a semi-cheater and jumped out of the line of water, so poor Betsy got most of the water. Either way, it was freezing cold and a fun way to end the night 😉 My husband’s grandfather died from ALS so I am grateful to support two great causes tonight. A wonderful night from start to finish. Thanks again to everyone for your support 😉

Back to School Life Savers & Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Welcome to my home! Isn’t it a clean, peaceful place to be?!? Ha! I apologize for not blogging for the past week. You see..we moved into our house over 10 years ago and I decided that as soon as my kids were back in school (literally..like the day they left) I pulled out some paint brushes and have been going crazy every since. After going to a Parade of Homes with my sister I came home determined to get rid of some of the dark paint, dark trim and ugly faux walls we have had for the last decade.  I am having a lot of fun painting and making a big mess, but that has sure made our kitchen/cooking/blogging life less than desirable. Thanks to a few freezer meals I made in advance (knowing my kitchen would be blown up), we have survived and haven’t starved too badly 😉 So, with painting and kids back in school I have found a few recipes that are a MUST have around any crazy house…from painting or regular life 😉 I am excited to share those with you this week to hopefully simplify your life..I know they have mine. Once I finish up painting (you know..maybe by Christmas, I will share some pics with you). I am the WORST at decorating though, so I think I am going to need to enlist Ellen for some help. We’ll see how it turns out 😉

easy breakfast, Easy Meal Ideas, Recipe:  Breakfast, eggs, freezer breakfast burritos, time saver meals, Freezer Meals,

So, the first recipe I want to share is for freezer Breakfast Burritos. There is nothing fancy about this recipe, but these burritos are morning savers around here. With five children in five different schools this year, our mornings have become a bit of a zoo. Having kids leave with full tummies however, seems to make their days (and mine) go better. I like to keep a freezer bag full of these egg burritos in my freezer at all times so they can grab one, warm it in the microwave for 2 minutes and be on their way. One trick I love is throwing cooked quinoa into your eggs. It adds a nice texture and gives the kids added protein and nutrients. They haven’t figured out yet that it’s in there. Here is a link to my other favorite egg-quinoa breakfast we love around here. You can even wrap these burritos in saran wrap so they can grab and go if you like them to take them on the go. I have to admit, we have even had these for dinner too in the last week and we loved them. Feel free to adjust the filling of your burritos with anything you wish to change up the flavors…sausage & peppers, ham and cheese, southwestern style with black beans, etc. The sky is the limit. Hope these burritos help your days go a little smoother like they do for us 😉

easy breakfast, Easy Meal Ideas, Recipe:  Breakfast, eggs, freezer breakfast burritos, time saver meals, Freezer Meals,
Freezer Breakfast Burritos

24 eggs, scrambled in a large bowl
1 cup milk
2 tsp. butter
1 lb. ham, cubed (or ground sausage)
1 onion, chopped
4 stalks green onions, sliced
Any other vegetables you wish to add
1 cup cooked quinoa (optional)
About 1 Tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning or salt/pepper
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
24 flour tortillas
Whisk together the eggs and milk in a large bowl until whipped and a light yellow color. In a large saute pan, heat a couple teaspoons of butter and saute onions until tender and soft. Add the cubed ham and heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the scrambled egg/milk mixture to the hot pan, Let the bottom of the egg begin to set and then stir with a spatula to scrape everything off the bottom. Turn the heat down to low, place a lid on the pan and cook until the egg begins to set. Once the egg is mostly set, stir and then add the green onions, quinoa and shredded cheese. Lightly stir until combined, place the lid back on and let eggs rest and the cheese melt until ready to roll up in the burritos. Once the egg is finished, warm the flour tortillas in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to soften them up. Add about 1/4-1/3 cup of the egg mixture into the center of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla as tightly as you can and place on a greased cookie sheet. Put 15-20 burritos on each cookie sheet, trying to keep them separate so they don’t touch each other. Cover the burritos with saran wrap and freeze them until they are mostly frozen (or all the way frozen), about 4-6 hours. Once the burritos are frozen, remove them from the pan and place them in a freezer, gallon ziploc bag. Keep frozen until ready to serve. When ready to serve, place one burrito on a plate and warm them up in the microwave for two minutes, rotating them half way through. Serve with salsa or ketchup.

Best Buttermilk Pancakes

 

Here in Utah July 24th is a special holiday. It’s the day we get to pay tribute to our ancestors who went before us and settled this beautiful Salt Lake Valley. I have several ancestors who crossed the Missouri plains through hardships, died along the trail and made it so we can have religious freedom here in this wonderful state. I am so grateful for them and their sacrifices. There are many times I look to their example and it helps me plug along in my day to day life.  One of the ancestors who I love dearly is Iona Aitken. She is my grandma and I miss her like crazy! She passed away almost 10 years ago, but I am thankful I still feel of her influence and love to this day. She was such an amazing woman. Her husband passed away when she was in her fourties and she raised 7 amazing children all on her own. She had this saying that we all quote and remember to this day. Anytime she would see you, or be around you, she would always say, “What can I do for you?” Even though her life was never easy, she was always looking out for others and trying to find ways to be of service. She is such a beautiful, righteous lady I wanted to dedicate this post to her 😉 I am excited to re-post a recipe of my grandmother’s that I make several times a month. Her Buttermilk Pancakes were a favorite when we would sleep over at her house and I really don’t think you can improve upon this recipe. It is basic and practically perfect in every way…just like my grandma 😉 Happy July 24th to all of you!

 Aren’t old photos the best? Sometimes they look the way I feel 🙂

 

 



Buttermilk Pancakes
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups buttermilk
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 4 Tbls. canola oil
  4. 2 Tbls. sugar
  5. 2 tsp. baking powder
  6. 2 cup flour (can use 1/2 wheat flour)
  7. 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  8. 3/4 tsp. salt
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Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the buttermilk, eggs, oil, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk until smooth. Add the flour to the batter and mix just until incorporated. Heat a griddle to medium heat and spray with cooking spray or add a little butter to melt. Pour a 1/2 cup of the batter onto the hot griddle and heat on both sides until golden brown. Serve with your favorite syrup or fruit.
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Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps & My First Half Marathon

 

It was nearly a modern day miracle the other night when I made a dinner without any butter or cheese-shocking I know 😉 I have to admit I am slightly addicted to these two ingredients and probably add them to way too many of my recipes. However, since I was ‘trying’ to be healthy before I ran my first half marathon this past weekend I came up with this incredible, healthy recipe I know you will love! The great thing about this dish is you don’t even know it’s healthy. I knew my husband would be hesitant about a taco wrapped in lettuce but every person in my family was totally hooked! I served these tacos with Ham Fried Rice and it was a hit all the way around!

Hooray that our half marathon is over! I am so thankful to have great friends who push me outside my comfort zone. I am NOT a great runner. I am slow, I feel old and my body hurts a lot. However, it felt so good to push myself and prove that I could do hard things–and accomplish something outside of my kitchen 😉 We had a great race, the weather was amazing, and we ran for my Mom and her surviving cancer. It was touching to see my Mom and Dad at the finish line and think about how blessed we are to still have her with us. If you have never ran before, and it’s something you have wanted to do–give it a try! If I can run a half marathon, so can you! Get out there, find a running group and try something new. You will be awesome!!

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps, Recipe: Healthy, Recipe: Turkey, Recipe: Asian, Recipe: Beef, Deals to Meals Updates, healthy asian lettuce wraps, best lettuce wraps, Deals to Meals
Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Ingredients
  1. 2 lbs. lean ground turkey
  2. 1/2 white onion, diced small
  3. 7 white mushrooms, diced small
  4. 1 large stalk celery, diced small
Sauce
  1. 3/4 cup soy sauce
  2. 1/3 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 tsp. black pepper
  4. 1 Tbls. cornstarch
  5. 1 tsp. fish sauce
  6. 1 tsp. sesame oil
  7. 1 tsp. hoisin sauce
  8. Sriracha sauce to taste
  9. 1 cucumber, peeled, cut in half, seeds removed and then diced fine
  10. 8-10 pieces of bibb lettuce or romaine lettuce
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Saute all of the above ingredients until the turkey is browned and the vegetables have become tender. Drain the meat/vegetable mixture until dry--you don't want excess water and fat from the meat mixture. Pour the meat mixture back into the saute pan and add the following
  1. Let simmer until the mixture begins to thicken. Then add the cucumber and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Remove meat mixture from the heat and place a good portion of the meat into each piece of lettuce. Serve warm. You can garnish with cilantro or chopped peanuts if you wish.
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Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich & Favorite Restaurants in Banff Canada

 

I’m sure it’s not a surprise but one of the highlights of our vacation to Canada was the food. Besides the higher prices on food, we were thoroughly impressed with nearly every restaurant we visited. One of our favorite places was The Grizzly Paw in Banff. If you are ever in Banff you need to go to their restaurant and get the Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich. The sandwich was amazing, but the Beer Infused BBQ Sauce was AWESOME! It took this sandwich from a 9 out of 10 to a 15 out of 10. It was SO great! My sister and I were a tad obsessed with this sauce (maybe it was the beer–hopefully it was cooked out, right?!?) that we had to go buy several bottles at their store connected to the restaurant. I will be trying to recreate this sauce, but in case I can’t, you can either buy it online or just leave the sauce off the sandwich. Either way, this sandwich is delightful with the chipotle mayo, jalapeno peppers, pepper jack cheese, etc.

Recipe: Chicken, Recipe: Main Dish, Recipe: Sandwiches, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurant Recipes, Copycat Recipes, Banff Canada, , Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich, chipotle mayo

Angry Bird Chicken Sandwiches
Mayo
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped fine
  3. Juice 1/2 lime
  4. Salt & pepper to taste
Chicken
  1. 5-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, grilled and seasoned
  2. 6 ciabatta buns
  3. 2 tomatoes, sliced
  4. 2 avocados, sliced
  5. 1 cup arugala or spinach
  6. 1/2 cup pickled jalapeno peppers
  7. 1/2 red onion, sliced (optional)
  8. 6 slices pepperjack cheese
  9. BBQ Sauce (1/2 cup bbq sauce and 1/2 cup salsa mixed)--or buy Grizzly Paw BBQ Sauce
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, mix together the chipotle peppers and mayonnaise. Add the lime juice and salt & pepper and stir.
  2. Grill the chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper. When the chicken is about to be taken off the grill, top each chicken breast with a slice of pepperjack cheese. Spread a generous amount of the chipotle mayo onto each piece of bread. Top with the cooked chicken breast and then top with pickled jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, avocados, and arugala. If you have bbq sauce that you love, add that to the sandwich as well--or you can mix with some spicy salsa to add a little kick.
  3. Here are a few of our other restaurants that we ate at in Banff & Canmore (in case you have a chance to visit there sometime soon 😉
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Recipe: Chicken, Recipe: Main Dish, Recipe: Sandwiches, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurant Recipes, Copycat Recipes, Banff Canada, , Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich, chipotle mayo, best restaurants in banff canada, Touloulou's Cajun, Earls, LaBellePatate

*TooLouLou’s Cajun–fabulous (4 out of 5 stars)! Their Shrimp & Grits is almost as good as ours 😉 My brother in law got frog legs..that was a first for me (I about gagged but he loved them). My husband got a Cajun Kickin’ Burger which was huge and delicious and I got their crab cakes (also great!). Their jumbalaya was also great!!

Recipe: Chicken, Recipe: Main Dish, Recipe: Sandwiches, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurant Recipes, Copycat Recipes, Banff Canada, , Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich, chipotle mayo, best restaurants in banff canada, Touloulou's Cajun, Earls, LaBellePatate

 *Earl’s was probably our favorite restaurant we went to in Banff. They have high end steaks that I’m sure are amazing, but we got more of a middle of the road meal and everything was great!! You have to get their Sour Dough & Ricotta Cheese appetizer. It was heavenly. I got their Chicken, Apple & Brie sandwich which I will definetly be recreating and sharing a recipe with you soon. Their ribs were also heavenly and so was their Cajun Cheddar Sandwich & their Bacon Cheese Burger. The only down side to this place is they don’t have any ranch for the sweet potato fries 😉

Recipe: Chicken, Recipe: Main Dish, Recipe: Sandwiches, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurant Recipes, Copycat Recipes, Banff Canada, , Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich, chipotle mayo, best restaurants in banff canada, Touloulou's Cajun, Earls, LaBellePatate

 

 

*If you are looking for a great poutine, La Belle Patate is great. It’s kind of a greasy, old diner style place but the poutines were actually really great. I would give it a 3 out of 5 stars. This is one of the few places you can get Spruce Beer. Have you had it? It’s like rootbeer (non-alcoholic) but tastes like a Christmas tree in a can. It is the craziest tasting stuff, but kind of fun 😉

Some other places we tried were State & Main (4 out of 5–great sweet potato fries & a spicy Thai Shrimp appetizer…yum!), Bill Peyto’s (3 out of 5–great sweet potato’s and a Tzyaki Chicken Wrap).

 
Recipe: Chicken, Recipe: Main Dish, Recipe: Sandwiches, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurant Recipes, Copycat Recipes, Banff Canada, , Angry Bird Chicken Sandwich, chipotle mayo, best restaurants in banff canada, Touloulou's Cajun, Earls, LaBellePatate
Here’s a juicy, inside peak at this amazing sandwich. LOVED it!!

Pineapple Cream Cheese Cake & a Happy Birthday to Dad!

 

I just wanted to say happy 61st birthday to my amazing Dad! I love him so much and am so thankful for all that he has taught me. I feel so blessed to be his daughter and am so grateful to have amazing parents who have been such great examples to me. It has been 5 years since my Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and we thought we would lose her. She was given only a couple months to live and thanks to prayers and miracles from God she is still with us today. Being able to go on vacations like we did to Canada with my parents, and seeing them so happy and healthy, makes me sit back and count my blessings for everyday we have together.

Cream Cheese Pineapple Cake, oiless cake, cream cheese frosting, lowfat pineapple cake, Recipe: Cake, Recipe: Dessert, Family Update, Family Favorites, dealstomeals, Deals to Meals

Over these many years with my Dad I have quickly learned the way to his heart is through his stomach. He is my number one taste tester and gives me the most honest (yes, critical at times) feedback of anyone I know. If my Dad says something is good, you know it is great! I love to call him and have him come over to try new recipes and see his reactions. For his birthday this year he wanted me to make his favorite cake–Pineapple Cream Cheese Cake. This recipe has been in our family for as long as I can remember and it is definitely one of my favorite cake recipes! The great thing about this cake is there is no oil in the cake batter. Yes, there is plenty of sugar, but it makes me feel a little better that there isn’t any oil. The cake is extremely moist, dense and smothered in this cream cheese frosting you can’t go wrong! It is a simple cake to make and a crowd pleaser for sure. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do. Happy Birthday Dad!!



Cream Cheese Pineapple Cake, oiless cake, cream cheese frosting, lowfat pineapple cake, Recipe: Cake, Recipe: Dessert, Family Update, Family Favorites, dealstomeals, Deals to Meals
Pineapple Cream Cheese Cake
Cake
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 2 3/4 cups white sugar
  3. 3 cups crushed pineapple (with juices)
  4. 3 cups flour
  5. 3 tsp. baking soda
  6. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Frosting
  1. 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  2. 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
  3. 1 tsp. vanilla
  4. Dash of salt
  5. 1 lb. powdered sugar
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Instructions
  1. With a hand blender, in a large bowl, beat together the sugar and pineapple. Add the eggs, soda and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until batter comes together. Pour the mixture into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 40-48 minutes, or until the center of the cake is set and no longer soft. The top of the cake will get a nice golden brown color and that's okay. When cake is done, remove from the oven and let rest until room temperature while you make the frosting.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla, salt and powdered sugar and blend until smooth. You may need a teaspoon or so of milk, but wait until the sugar is incorporated before you add that. Continue to whip frosting until peaks form and it is light and fluffy. Frost the cake and serve.
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“Orange” you glad it’s summer? Adorable end of school gift idea

How cute is this? My sister is watching a couple of our kids while we are out of town this week and this is what she gave my kids after they got home from school today. They are finishing up their last day of school and this was her gift for them. What a sweet aunt!!!! I just wanted to share this adorable idea in case any of you wanted to do this for your kids.

Here are a few of the items she had in her packages:

*Everything Reese’s works great
*Orange Tic Tacs
*Orange
*Orange bubbles
*Orange soda pop
*Orange nail polish
*Orange flip flops
*Orange gum
*Orange pringles (cheddar)

Thanks Ang for being such a sweet aunt to our kiddos! Happy summer and end of school days to each of you 🙂

Cream Cheese Crescent Squares

Since I am completely awful about keeping a journal or scrapbooking, I hope you bear with me as I post a few pictures from our family’s weekend 😉 I hope you had a wonderful Easter as well. Ours was pretty low key but a lot of yummy food, family and fun. We had our annual easter egg hunt Saturday with a big yummy breakfast. The kids got stuffed on candy and the adults were able to enjoy a smorgasbord of delicious breakfast items. We had Carmel Apple Waffles,  Cheesy Hash browns, Scrambled Eggs, Juice, Fruit & this to-die for Cinnamon Cream Cheese Concoction my sister made. Oh my heavens–it is scary yummy! I told her to take every last leftover far, far away from me. I wanted to seriously eat the entire pan. Considering what is in it, that would NOT be a good idea for my waistline. I am not sure it is considered a breakfast food, it would be amazing as a dessert too. No matter how you slice it, it is unbelievably fattening and SO good!! If you dare make this recipe, just know you will want to have plenty of people to share it with or I promise, the leftovers will be devoured before you can even put it in the fridge 🙂 Hope you had a great weekend and enjoy this recipe like we did!

 
 

Cream Cheese Crescent Squares
Ingredients
  1. 2 (8 oz.) packages refrigerator crescent dough
  2. 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
  3. 3/4 cup white sugar
  4. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  5. 6 Tbls. butter, melted
  6. 1/4 cup white sugar
  7. 1 tsp. cinnamon
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pinch pan with cooking spray. Presson one of the crescent roll dough packages into the bottom of the pan. In a medium sized bowl, cream together the cream cheese, 3/4 cup of sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Spread over the crescent layer. Unrool the second crescent dough and lay them on top of the cream cheese layer. Do not press down. Pour the melted butter over the entire pan. Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve warm or cold. Serve with fresh berries, sliced and cooked apples, or any other toppings you desire 😉
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Chocolate Mint Oreo Cupcakes and St. Patrick’s Day

 
 
 
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope the Leprechauns found your homes and brought you something yummy and green..or even better, a pot of gold 😉 Yesterday we were trying to think of a yummy green treat and we came up with these simple Chocolate Mint Oreo Cupcakes that were SUPER yummy!! I happened to have a package of mint Oreo cookies and thought they would be fun put inside the center of a moist, chocolate cupcake. Top this cupcake with a mint buttercream frosting and you have a dessert for tonight that is simple and festive 😉 Have a great day!
 
 

Chocolate Mint Oreo Cupcakes
Ingredients
  1. 1 box chocolate fudge cake (plus the ingredients to make the cake PLUS a capful of mint extract)
  2. 1 package Mint Oreo Cookies
  3. Mini chocolate chips or crushed Oreo cookies for decoration
  4. 1 recipe buttercream frosting with a capful of mint extract
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If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix up the cake mix as directed on the box. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put 24 cupcake liners in two muffin pans. Place a tablespoon of cake batter in the bottom of each muffin tin. Place one Oreo cookie on top of the batter in the cupcake liner. Cover the top of the cookie with another 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of batter until the batter is all gone and the muffins are filled to 2/3 full. Place the muffins in the oven and bake 15-18 minutes, or until the center comes out clean. The muffins will cook a little quicker because of the dry cookie in the center. While the muffins are baking, make the buttercream frosting. This is my favorite recipe, just add a capful of mint extract to the whipped frosting. Frost the cupcakes and top with mini chocolate chips or crushed Oreo cookie pieces.
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We need your prayers!

We need your prayers!
My husbands cousin Lexi Hansen was in an accident yesterday at BYU and is in a coma with severe brain injury. She was hit by a car while she was skateboarding and has less than a 1% chance of survival. Our entire extended family, and many friends, fasted today and have been continually praying for her recovery–and are asking for your prayers as well. She is such a beautiful girl, inside and out. She is the one in the picture next to her brother in the denim jacket. She is such a sweet and loving girl we are all heart broken. We all know miracles can happen if it is God’s plan and we add our faith and prayers for her and her family. She is one of 9 amazing, talented and beautiful siblings.  Our thoughts go out to their entire family at this hard time.
Tragic experiences like this sure make your perspective on life change, don’t they? I found all day today all I wanted to do was snuggle with my kids and slow down a little. Life is too fragile and short, and I feel awful that I am often guilty of putting aside things that matter most, for things that matter least. Family, relationships, your relationship with God are all things that leave a lasting legacy with those you love. It is my goal to spend more time building my relationships with others, than doing things that have little significance in life. Whether you know Lexi or not, take an extra few minutes and hug your children and family members today. Every day we have with each other is a special gift from God.

We are praying for you Lexi and we know miracles can happen! 

Vacation Updates, Favorite Restaurant in CA & Sugar Cookie Bar Recipe

I have to apologize for being such a slacker blogger lately. I had grand plans of having recipes ready to post before I went on vacation but time seemed to slip away from me. So, I am back home and ready to continue blogging delicious, healthy recipes this year! I fell off the healthy bandwagon while on vacation but want to jump back on and keep exploring recipes that lack calories and fat but not flavor. I am excited to share some new, delicious recipes coming this week! 
 
Thanks to my New Year’s resolution I have loved several new recipes that have quickly become family favorites. The Margarita Chicken recipe is healthy and was a huge hit on our vacation. During the week we are gone each of us sisters take a night to cook (for 18 adults and 22 kids)– making it so we only cook one time in 7 days-love it! I chose to cook the Margarita Chicken and it got raving reviews. We all voted it will come back each year as a new family favorite. If you have not tried this recipe, you need to give a try!
 

 
If you have read my blog for awhile you know about my family’s obsessive nature with food. Our vacations revolve around great food and funny traditions involving food. We always do a taste off of a food item when we are together and then we always try new restaurants and pretend we are food critiques. We like to rate different restaurants and love to all give our feedback. We are a loud Italian family with very outspoken people so it becomes quite the debate when we try and analyze the different restaurants and menu items. We love the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and like to give Guy Fieri a run for his money 😉 Before we go on our trips we always check and see if there is a Triple D restaurant in the area we are going. We were excited that in San Diego there were a few to choose from.
 
If you live in San Diego and want a good, unique pizza option from a LITERAL dive (beware..the joint might scare you like it did me), the Pizzaria Luigi makes really great pizzas. I got the Pear, Caramelized Onion & Gorgonzola pizza and it was really good. I love pizza with unusual ingredients. My husband liked the normal meat-man pizza and I also liked their artichoke chicken with sun-dried tomato pizza. If you want a pizza joint with abnormal, but great pizzas, this is a place for you! We gave it a 6 out of 10 stars 😉 Another fun thing we did was chose a restaurant and only ordered appetizers for dinner (not recommended for anyone on a diet but really fun). We chose Texas Road house and rated their fried pickles and buffalo boneless wings their best appetizers. Super fun date idea 😉
 
Now..onto my FAVORITE restaurant review of our trip (and really the best in many years). If you live near Oceanside CA you MUST visit the Rockin’ Baja Lobster Cantina. It is on a small pierre over looking the harbor. It is a small, quaint joint and more than half of the restaurant is a bar. My family and I don’t drink, but there was plenty of seating outside overlooking the harbor or inside next to the salsa bar (bonus). By the time we were leaving the restaurant I could not stop raving about the food. The rest of the week I was telling people at the pool, on the elevator and through InstaGram about this place. If you live anywhere near Oceanside (or I think they have one in Newport), this is a place you must visit! Now..what to order? Let me give you a few tips. First..the parking at Oceanside Harbor is free which is a huge bonus in CA. So, park in the parking lot and walk down the pier. It is the restaurant just after the lighthouse. Between the hours of 3 p.m.-6 p.m. it is happy hour (Mon.-Thurs.?) which means all of their street tacos are $2.50 and their fish tacos are only $3.50 each. Now, these fish tacos are not just any fish tacos. They are THE BEST fish tacos I have ever had in my entire life (and I have had my fair share of fish tacos!). They use white, grilled fish, plenty of slaw, fresh tomatoes and avocado and smother the entire taco in a kickin’ cilantro dressing. I can’t even tell you how amazing they were. My eyes were rolling behind my head as I was eating them–unreal good (especially for the price!). We then ordered 8-10 street tacos (pork, carnitas, carne asada, barbacoa, etc.) and each one was marinated and cooked to perfection. We loved ever single one!! Besides all of this, it even gets better. There is a FREE salsa bar. Not just any salsa bar. A salsa bar with homemade tortilla chips and 6-8 different types of salsa. Their mango salsa is the best I have ever had and is even better than homemade. YUMMY! Like I said, I can’t stop talking about this place. I will stop for your sakes, but if you want an inexpensive and ‘rockin’ new restaurant to try in California, this is the one for you!!
 
Besides dinner entrees we were a tad obsessed about the sweet treats all week. After being more conscious of not eating, or baking as much sweets the past two months, I think I was on a sugar high all week. My new found addiction though is a strange one. Generally I could take or leave sugar cookies but for some reason these past weeks they have become a new favorite. My sister made these Sugar Cookie Bars that were amazing! I had to have the leftovers taken out of my site or I would have eaten the rest of the pan for breakfast. They are awesome and SO much easier than rolling out individual cookies. I am bookmarking this recipe for next Valentines for sure!
 
 
If you are a sugar cookie connoisseur and want the most amazing sugar cookie on the planet…you must visit St. George Utah. There is a place called The Sugar Cookie (clever name I know 🙂 and it is completely and scarily addicting. Now..they have two different types of sugar cookies. They have a cakey, puffy cookie which is okay but not great. And then..they have a Old Fashion, more traditional sugar cookie that is moist, dense and perfect. Top this cookie with their heavenly frosting of choice (lemon, almond, cherry, orange, peanut butter, buttercream, chocolate, etc.) and you have a cookie that is too good to be true. They have a peanut butter cookie with chocolate frosting that is awesome! And..a molasses cookie with cream cheese frosting. Let’s just say in the 3 days we were in St. George we went there four times (scary!!). So yummy.
 
I think that’s all folks 😉 Thanks for listening and letting me rant and rave about the awesome past weeks we had in sunny California. I am back in the saddle again and excited for a great week of blogging 😉 Thanks for reading!
 
~Shandra
 
Here is the recipe for the Sugar Cookie Bars if you are interested:
 
Sugar Cookie Bar
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cup sugar
  2. 1 cup butter, softened
  3. 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla
  7. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  8. 1 tsp. baking powder
  9. 2 1/2 cup flour
Frosting
  1. 3 sticks butter, softened
  2. 1 1/2 tsp. butter flavoring
  3. 3-4 Tbls. milk or cream
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Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, sugar and egg until nice and frothy-about 4 minutes. Then, add the vanilla and almond extract and beat for 1 minute more. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix them around so that all ingredients are well incorporated. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat for 2 minutes. Press the dough in a large jelly roll (cookie sheet) pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let the pan cool completely before frosting.
  2. Cream together the butter, butter flavoring and milk until smooth. Add 1 1/2-2 lbs. powdered sugar and continue to whip until light and airy--about 2-3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and food coloring if wanted and then spread evenly over the bars once they have cooled.
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Peanut Butter Cookies & Annual Taste Test

If you have read my blog for awhile you would be familiar with our family’s tradition of our annual taste tests. All of us look forward to this fun part of our trips. This year we were excited to finally figure out which brand makes the best peanut butter. My husband and my brother in law are borderline fanatical about peanut butter and chocolate. These past weeks together I don’t know that a day has gone by that they haven’t splurged on some sort of pb & chocolate treat. We had such a fun time trying and tasting 9 different peanut butter options we could find at the local CA Winco. I am sure there are other brands, but these were the ones we compared: JIF regular, JIF natural, Skippy regular, fresh ground peanut butter, Winco store brand, Planters, Laura Scudder, Adam’s, and Western Family.

We were shocked once again at the findings. Just like in years past when the no-name brand Oreo came out the winner compared to the Nabisco brand, this year we had another no-name surprise. There were two close winners but the Winco store brand peanut butter was the winner!! We all were shocked and had thought for sure it was going to be a name brand winner. Second place came in at Skippy and third the JIF Natural PB. Last place was of course the freshly made peanut butter. It was flavorless and had an awful texture. Not counting that ‘given’ for last place was Adam’s PB. It had the worst after taste and it was fun to watch everyone’s reactions when they tried it. I would love to know what your favorite peanut butter is? I went into the taste test as a Skippy gal and that was my personal favorite–however, the Winco brand was definetly my second choice. So..if Skippy is not on sale, I will be stocking up on Winco Peanut Butter for sure 😉

After figuring out what the best peanut butter is we knew we needed to make up a yummy peanut butter treat and these cookies were just the thing we were craving! I love my Peanut Butter Blossom cookie recipe I posted about a couple years ago. However, my sisters recipe for these PB cookies is now going to replace my go-to PB cookie recipe. These cookies were soft and moist and not crumbly at all (which can be a problem with peanut butter cookies. This recipe is a perfect, delightful way to use the peanut butter in your storage 😉

 


















Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup butter
  2. 1/2 cup peanut butter
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  5. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  6. 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  9. 1 1/4 cup flour
  10. 1 package chocolate chunks or chips
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Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar for 5-7 minutes or until smooth and light in color. Add the remaining ingredients and beat just until combined. In a small separate bowl place 1/4 cup sugar. Roll golf ball sized cookie dough into the sugar and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake the cookies at 375 for 7 to 9 minutes, or until cooked in the center. Don't over bake or the cookies will be more dry.
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Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day! Since I can’t give each of you a fresh bunch of flowers for Valentines Day, I thought I would give you a virtual batch 🙂 Walking to the pool yesterday I was amazed at all of the different varieties of flowers here in California. I thought of our home back in Utah and the gray skies and white snow and I couldn’t help but take pictures of color. I miss color during the winter in Utah so I will look back at these flowers when I get home and I am sure they will bring a smile to my face. I hope each of you have a wonderful day today and know that I appreciate each of you!! Thank you for reading my blog, encouraging me on this journey and being such supportive friends. Love you all!

Lemon Chicken Picatta & 15th Anniversary

 

January 2nd is a special day in our family. Fifteen years ago I married my best friend. Celebrating our wedding anniversary around the New Year is such a great way to think about the many wonderful memories of the past year, and the blessing my marriage is to me. I have known Todd since I was six years old and so we are technically celebrating 28 years of being friends. He is such a wonderful, good and loving man I couldn’t be happier to work with him and raise our children together. Every moment we have together is a gift–not that life is always easy but together it makes life worth living.   

For our 15th anniversary we spent a few days in downtown Salt Lake at an old and charming hotel Little America. We had such a great time I can’t help but send a shout-out to everyone about how great their service was, the hotel ambiance and their buffets. Oh my! I am a harsh food critique (to say the least) and Little America serves a breakfast and lunch buffet that is out of this world! Everything was seasoned perfectly and I became a little fanatical about how great the food was. I had a hard time not talking about the food our entire trip. It’s not very often I eat at a place where you walk away thinking…I couldn’t improve on that one bit! Every bite was unreal.  If you are wanting a fun, delicious, romantic get-away I would suggest this darling hotel. The raspberry crepes, bran muffins, breaded halibut and teriyaki salmon are calling my name! I might just have to go back more often than yearly. YUM!  Thanks Todd for an amazing life and weekend together. Love you!



Now, onto the Lemon Chicken Picatta which was as lovely and amazing as my husband 😉 Okay, he’s much better than picatta, but this recipe is incredible! On our Anniversary we happened to go to Christopher’s Steak House and I ordered their Chicken Picatta. It was extremely delicious but the fact it was $30 a plate was crazy! Thankfully we had a coupon but it was killing me to pay that price when I knew I could feed 10 people that same meal for $30. So, as soon as I got home I went to work re-creating that fabulous dish and was thrilled when my version tasted even better than Christophers…and, for MUCH less the price. If you want a fancy, yet simple, dish for your next special occasion, this is the one for you! Pretty much this lemon cream sauce would be great on anything…breaded halibut, salmon, pasta, a grilled steak, over vegetables, etc. I hope you enjoy 😉

Lemon Chicken Picatta
Chicken
  1. 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  2. 2 tsp. salt
  3. 1 Tbls. black pepper
  4. 1 cup flour
  5. 1 cup panko
  6. 1/4 cup olive oil
  7. 1/2 stick butter
Lemon Cream Sauce
  1. 2 Tbs. butter
  2. 3 cups chicken broth
  3. Zest of 1 lemon
  4. 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  5. 1 Tbls. cornstarch
  6. 16 oz. whipping cream, half & half or whole milk
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Instructions
  1. Lemon Chicken Picatta
Chicken
  1. 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  2. 2 tsp. salt
  3. 1 Tbls. black pepper
  4. 1 cup flour
  5. 1 cup panko
  6. 1/4 cup olive oil
  7. 1/2 stick butter
  8. Trim the chicken of any excess fat. Cut the chicken breasts and cut in half horizontally making two thin chicken fillets. Do this to each chicken breast. In a large gallon size Ziploc bag place the salt, pepper, flour and panko and mix around until combined. Heat a large sauce pan with the olive oil and butter. Heat to medium-high heat. Place several chicken breasts into the flour mixture, shake around until chicken is coated. Shake off extra flour and then place the chicken into the hot butter. Let the chicken breasts cook on each side until golden brown but not cooked through. Once the chicken is golden brown, place on a cookie sheet. Continue to do this to each chicken breast until they are all browned. Place the cookie sheet into a preheated oven at 350 for 10-12 more minutes, or until cooked through.
  9. To make the lemon sauce, add 2 Tbls. more butter into the pan and whisk together getting all of the browned bits off of the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth, lemon juice and zest and cornstarch. Let this sauce simmer for 5-7 minutes. Then add the whipping cream, half and half or milk. Turn heat down and let sauce simmer until it begins to thicken. Once the sauce is ready, add salt and pepper to taste and a 3.5 oz. jar of capers (which has been drained).
  10. Remove the chicken from the stove, serve over mashed potatoes and drizzle with the lemon cream sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley and fresh lemon.
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Carribean Quinoa Salad

My name is Shandra and I love food. I think I need to go to a AAA for foodies. I am sure my love for food borders on an addiction. I pretty much eat, drink, sleep food. My job revolves around food, grocery sales, menu plans, food blogs, creating new recipes, teaching cooking classes, shopping for food, experimenting in the kitchen with food, throwing parties with food, planning events with food. You name it, if food is involved you can bet my name is attached to that party. Don’t get me wrong. My family, relationships and my religion come way before food of course. However, food seems to make all of those aspects of my life even better 😉 j/k

If any of you are feeling like you are wanting to kick start a New Year’s resolution I have come up with some ways that I am going to try and be healthier and keep food in it’s proper place in my life. I have five things I am going to work on and be diligent at in the year 2014. I hope if I tell them to you, we can help each other and encourage each other to do better. At the end of the year I will check back in and keep you posted as to how I did (scary!).

Here are my new life changes for 2014 (I’m not calling it a diet…just a new way of living):
1-Don’t bake treats, desserts, sweet breads or muffins Monday thru Friday (unless it’s a birthday of course) This is a HUGE life change for me. There are few days that go by that I don’t bake something yummy, gooey or homemade. This will be the hardest for me. I have instead been focusing on healthier dinner recipes to share with each of you through the week. My kids think this is a cruel joke but hopefully we’ll all get used to it after awhile.
2-NO seconds..man that is hard for me! When food tastes so great it’s hard not to go back for more 🙂
3-Stop eating after dinner–preferably before 6:30 or 7 p.m.
4-Don’t make sweet breakfast items except for once a week on the weekend (you know..like the cream filled crepes, pancakes with butter syrup…those sort of delicious recipes 🙂
5-Exercise 5 times a week (thanks to my love for chatting with friends this one I’m actually good at 🙂

How does that sound? I am sure many of you are much more capable and informed on how to be healthy but at this point in my life I have to start somewhere, and that is cutting back on my time in the kitchen. Sometimes I wish my hobby was painting or horseback riding. That would sure make some things easier, wouldn’t it?

Alright, that was long winded. Feel free to skip all that if you are just wanting this ultra healthy and delicious recipe. I am a big fan of quinoa and all of it’s health benefits. This salad can be a salad or a salsa-like dish. I love it as-is but it is also great with tortilla chips. This is a great meatless meal option if you are wanting to cut back on your meat consumption and calories. The pineapple and jerk seasoning adds such a tropical, fresh flavor that it is unlike any quinoa salad you have probably had. Healthy, fresh and fabulous!



Caribbean Quinoa Salad
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 1 can black beans, drained
  4. 1 can pineapple tidbits, drained and juice reserved
  5. 3 stalks green onions, sliced
  6. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  7. 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
Dressing
  1. 1 Tbls. jerk seasoning (homemade is best)
  2. 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  3. 1/4 cup oilve oil
  4. 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  5. 1/2 tsp. salt
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Instructions
  1. Bring to a boil the quinoa and water, and then place the lid on the pot, turn to low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until fluffy. Once quinoa is cooked, remove from the heat and let begin to cool. Once it is cool, pour it into a bowl and then add the black beans, pineapple tidbits, sliced green onions, red bell pepper and chopped cilantro.
  2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients until smooth and then pour over the quinoa mixture.
  3. Keep salad in the fridge until ready to serve.
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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from all of us here at Deals to Meals. We hope each of you are having a wonderful day with family and friends and are filled with the Christmas spirit of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for Christ’s birth and what his life means to me and my family. I feel so blessed this time of year and am thankful for all of you who support me, my family, and our company throughout these past 6 years. We are so grateful for each of you and hope you all have a very, Merry Christmas!

Someday I will maybe be on the ball and take a ‘real’ Christmas picture of my family. It is sad I take better pictures of food than I do my own kids. Maybe it’s because my 3 year old can’t sit still and my food does?!? Either way, I love each one of these cute, crazy kiddos!!

Favorite Family Tradition & Fondu Cheese Sauce

I can’t believe I had to make one last shopping trip to Walmart today. It was an absolute zoo!! You could hardly walk down the aisles–what was I thinking?! You would be shocked but I ran out of butter AND cheese this past weekend. I seriously don’t know what I would do without these two items. Butter is a staple here at our house and it was killing me to not be able to bake all weekend. So…our freezer is well stocked again thanks to the great butter and cheese prices this week. If you have to run out shopping tomorrow, make sure and login to our website to find out where all of the best deals are in your area. I got all of the items above for under $125–that’s a fun Christmas present to my food budget 🙂

Speaking of groceries, I wanted to share a really fun dinner idea that my family LOVED tonight. My kids were raving over this meal, so I thought I would share this idea for “FUN-du”  with you. This would be great for a gathering this week or even your New Year’s parties. Since it was Christmas Adam today (not heard of it? It’s one of our favorite days of the year…you should celebrate it! Ha!) Since Adam came before Eve, we turn today (the 23rd) into Christmas Adam. Every year the kids sleep under the tree, open their sibling presents to eachother, we open a new family game (and play it) and snuggle while we watch a Christmas movie. Our dinner is usually soup and bread but I wanted to switch it up this year and try something a little more fun. The fondu was voted to be our new Christmas Adam meal of choice. I would have to agree!! It was delicious and great for the kids to pick and choose what they were interested in 🙂 Here are the two cheese fondu recipes I used and some of the items we chose to dip in them. Hope you enjoy and have a wonderful Christmas Adam.


Fondu Sauces & Dipping Items
White Cheese Sauce & Cheddar Cheese Sauce (bread cubes, chicken, steak, vegetables, asparagus, etc.)
Jalapeno Jelly (potstickers, shrimp, egg rolls and chicken)
BBQ Sauce (Lil’ Smokies, Grilled Chicken)
Ranch Dressing (broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, celery)
White or Milk Chocolate (fresh pineapple, marshmallows, pretzels, bananas, apples, berries, etc.)

*The lighting in this picture was awful…I promise the cheese sauce is divine..despite the fact it looks like a thick, mustard paste in this picture 😉 
Fondu Cheese Sauce
White Cheese Sauce
  1. 1 stick butter
  2. 1/2 cup flour
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 to 2 1/2 cups milk (depending how thick you want the sauce)
  5. 8 oz. swiss cheese, shredded
  6. 6-8 oz. muenster cheese (or other white cheese)
  7. 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  8. 1 tsp. black pepper
  9. Dash cayenne pepper
  10. 1/4 tsp. paprika
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Instructions
  1. In a sauce pan add the butter and cook over medium heat until the butter begins to melt. Then add the flour and whisk together until the mixture is thick and the butter is all melted. Add the garlic cloves and milk and continue to whisk until the sauce begins to thicken and is smooth. Add the shredded cheese and seasonings and continue to cook on medium low heat until ready to serve and sauce is the consistency you want. For dipping you will want the sauce about an alfredo consistency--not too thick. If the sauce is too thick, just add a little more milk.
  2. *Cheddar Cheese Sauce: use the same recipe above but replace with 8 oz. colby jack cheese and 8 oz. sharp cheddar.
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Dessert, of course, was everyone’s favorite. I just bought the fruits/treats that were on sale this week and the kids had fun dipping them in chocolate (I just added a little heavy cream to a good quality milk chocolate chip and it worked great).

We love having the kids exchange their sibling gifts on this night. We used to have them give it to them Christmas morning but they were always overshadowed by their other presents. Because our kids earn their own money and buy their siblings presents we wanted to make sure they enjoyed them and were grateful for their siblings thoughtfulness (you know..anything to keep a little peace and happiness in the home). The other great aspect is they then get to play with their knew toys/gifts all day Christmas Eve and they let me do my thing in the kitchen all day preparing for our big Christmas Eve dinner. A win-win for all of us 😉

Thanksgiving Highlights and Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving week. It is good to be back in a routine again…kids back in school, kitchen finally clean, house quiet, pumpkin pie eaten out of the fridge (I ate that for breakfast lunch and dinner all week) and the diet trying to start up again, until more parties happen 😉 Despite the chaos and the messes however, we had a wonderful time with our families this past week. Because our families live so close to each other we had two amazing Thanksgiving feasts on Thursday. By the end of the night two of our kids were throwing up and I think we all were stuffed to the brim. It was a great day though to spend with family, talk about our blessings, our memories from the past year and the many things we are grateful for. My sister Krista had a rule that none of us could leave the table without crying. Not too surprising all of the women cried without prodding but the men had a good laugh trying to see who could ‘cry’ the most tears at the table. We spent hours laughing and having a great time while the kids were able to play outside and burn off some of their energy. It was a beautiful, sunny day and for that we were all grateful because that meant kids were not cooped up inside. All around we had an amazing week and I am so thankful for so many amazing people and family who surround us on a daily basis. 
 

Today I wanted to share a couple of my new-favorite recipes I discovered this past week. Knowing me and my love for sweet potatoes, you are probably not surprised they both have that as their common denominator. I hope you enjoy them and have a wonderful month celebrating this Christmas season.

 

 
 

I love rolls and I love sweet potatoes so when my neighbor introduced me to this recipe it was a no brainer-of course I would love them! These rolls were perfect to eat our leftover turkey on as sandwiches. The sweet potato flavor is not very strong but it ads a pretty orange color to the rolls and a hint of sweetness. A great way to add some vitamins into a normally all white carb filled roll. Loved them!

Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls
Ingredients
  1. 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  2. 1 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees)
  3. 2 large room temperature eggs, beaten
  4. 1 1/2 cup sweet potato puree
  5. 6 tablespoons melted butter
  6. 6 - 7 cups (approximately) All-Purpose Flour
  7. 1/3 cup sugar
  8. 1 tablespoon salt
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Instructions
  1. Stir yeast into the milk and soften in a large bowl. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before stirring to combine. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs, sweet potato puree, butter,
  2. sugar and salt together. Add the yeast mixture and whisk until combined.
  3. Using the paddle attachment for your stand mixer, add 3 cups of flour
  4. - 1 cup at a time - until a thick dough begins to form. When the dough
  5. begins to thicken you will need to switch to the dough hook attachment.
  6. Slowly add the rest of the flour, a bit at a time, until the dough is stiff enough to knead. Because each cup of flour measures differently, it is important to focus on the feel of the dough. Begin with 3 cups of flour and increase if necessary.mTurn dough out onto a floured surface. Continue to knead, adding flour as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. The dough
  7. should not feel tough or dry, but rather soft and pliable (but not sticky).
  8. Place the dough into a greased bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl to coat the entire ball of dough with oil.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and rise until doubled in bulk, for 1 - 2 hours.
  10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment
  11. paper. Divide the dough in thirds . Then divide each third into 6-8,
  12. depending on how small you would like your rolls. (Note: Alternatively,
  13. you can bake the rolls in greased round cake pans instead of on baking
  14. sheets).
  15. Roll each piece of dough to form smooth balls. Divide the rolls
  16. between the baking sheets and cover with plastic wrap. Allow rolls to
  17. rise for 20-30 minutes, then discard the plastic wrap.
  18. Cook the rolls in the 400 degree F preheated oven for 15-25 minutes,
  19. or until they are baked through and golden on top. Rotate the baking
  20. sheets halfway through baking if you cannot bake them all on the same
  21. rack.
  22. If serving immediately, brush roll tops with melted butter.
  23. *Recipe from Good Life Eats --I added a little more sugar and salt but other than that, the recipe is the same 😉
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Sweet potato pie…where have you been all my life? If you love pumpkin pie there is nothing not to love about this sweet potato pie. I kept having to have tastes of this sweet potato pie and then pumpkin to see which one I liked better. I have to say if I had to choose just one pie I would have to go with this sweet potato pie. The color was so vibrant and a pretty orange color it looked more appetizing to me than the pumpkin pie. The flavor and texture too, although a little more dense, was super sweet and smooth. Everything about this pie was awesome and I can guarantee next year this Sweet Potato Pie will be making a re-appearance at our Thanksgiving table. 

*I used Paula Deen’s recipe and I only did two things differently from her recipe. I one and a halved the amount of the recipe and it filled one deep dish pie plate. I wanted a little thicker pie. I added 20-25 minutes onto the cooking time. Also, I topped the pie with whipped cream instead of the meringue topping. I’m sure both ways would be great but I am a sucker for real whipped cream.

Restaurant Review: Best Bacon Cheeseburger

Last weekend our family spent our fall break in St. George visiting
my husband’s brother and his wife. Judi is an amazing long arm quilter
and has a blog and website that you will totally love. We love getting
together and talking about our website’s and getting the updates of how
business is going. She usually shows me her latest sewing projects and I
usually spend the weekend cooking and sharing with them some of my
favorite recipes. Saturday night instead of cooking dinner at home our
husbands had a crazy-fun idea to find the BEST bacon cheeseburger in St.
George (Utah). It was a challenge I was totally up for! I secretly have a dream of being a professional food critique. I can’t eat anything without analyzing the flavors to the point of driving my husband crazy 😉 So, we were all excited to get the kids settled and to head out the door on our date.


My husband and his brother are obsessed with hamburgers and
hot dogs. It it weren’t for us wives restricting their diets, I think
their veins would be filled with them. I have to admit every now and
then I do enjoy a really good burger. I can pass completely on a fast
food burger, but a gourmet burger I admit I do enjoy. We picked 8
gourmet burger restaurants we thought would be fun to try in St. George (our criteria was a burger over $6).
At each restaurant we would order one bacon cheeseburger and have them
cut it in fourths. We would also order a small fry. At the first couple
places we ate we gobbled down the burger and all of the fries. By the
end we were barely eating one bite of the burgers and a couple fries. I
don’t ever want to know how many calories we consumed, but it sure was
fun! I wouldn’t recommend doing this every weekend but if you
want to get a group of friends together and do a taste-test it makes for
a really fun night.

Okay, how we did our judging. We
would return to our car after each place and grade the burger and fries
on several criteria. We would rank the size of the burger, overall
quality of the burger, quality and quantity of the bacon, quality of the
fries and their fry sauce. We gave a maximum of 25 points possible and
ranked them according to their over-all total. Here are the results of
our first-annual restaurant taste off (watch for more coming soon!). I would LOVE to hear where you get your favorite burger? We are wanting to do this again soon in the Salt Lake Valley (once we lose a couple pounds that is ;), so watch for that.

We LOVE One Hot Grill and were thrilled when they came in first place. They make amazing gourmet hot dogs and their burgers are just as great. It was juicy, flavorful, had a spongy homemade bun, filled with great toppings and their fries and fry sauce won the best fry too. This small, eatery is on Tabernacle street and could easily be missed. It is locally owned by a really sweet man and it is one of St. George’s best kept secrets. If you want a fabulous burger with a perfectly crispy battered french fry…with homemade fry sauce, you must go here. Support a small, local business owner and be glad to know you are eating the best burger and fries available (in our book anyway) you can get in St. George!

Player’s Sports Grill had the second best burger. Their fries were good but nothing too great. However, if you want a large, juicy burger topped with awesome crispy bacon, this is the burger for you! A little on the pricy side at $12.30, but worth every penny if you want a gourmet burger.

Apollo Burger has always been a favorite of my husbands. It it weren’t for the strong, white onion on this burger it could have been in my top one or two. There was plenty of bacon, was a great size burger and their fries are also one of my favorites. A great, all around awesome burger at a little lower price.

Smash Burger and Five Guys came in just about even-steven. The thing I love about these two places is you can add as many toppings and sauces as you want. I love a saucy, dripping burger and these two places give you just that. Five Guys has great cajun fries and Smash Burger has a special ‘smash sauce’ that makes their burger special to me. These two places are a great option if you want a less expensive, yet filling burger.

We were shocked to have Red Robin’s burger be ranked so poorly! If it weren’t for their awesome fries they would have been almost dead last. Their burger really was quite flavorless, dry and not great. The next time we go there we will just have a batch of fries and call it good.


I had never been to a Freddy’s before but thought their burger was kind of fun. They are known for their sirloin burgers and it had great flavor. However, it was pretty small, had a super thin patty and nothing too crazy to talk about. It was the second less expensive burger at $5 and a good value if you’re keeping to a budget.

Larson’s has been around for a long time and have that cheap-greasy-diner-burger down just right. Nothing high quality or fabulous but has an over-all pretty good taste. Not my style of a burger but has a nastalgic feel that I’m sure many people love 😉

So, go out and get yourself a burger of your choice. Many to choose from but no two are created equal. Now we just have to decide what we will be taste-testing next. If you have any fun ideas of places you would like us to try, leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts 😉

Oatmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

 
This weekend is one of my favorites of the entire year. There are few times when I feel justified to sit on my couch and eat delicious food for two days straight. Our church has what’s called General Conference where the leaders and prophet of our church speak to us and they broadcast it on television and the internet around the world. Basically it’s like 8 hours of church on t.v. This may not sound fun to some, but for our family it is a special time to be together, listen to uplifting messages and eat lots of yummy food. 
 

 
The Monday before Conference begins we have our family council and each of the kids get to choose their favorite recipes/meals they want me to cook for this special weekend. They think it is so fun to be able to come up with our menu for the weekend and get to have special treats that I don’t make very often. One of the first requests was for these super spongy Oatmeal Pancakes. Of course they want them smothered in a sweet, berry syrup which makes these pancakes even better. A warm breakfast on a relaxed Sunday morning (without having to get 5 kids out the door to church by 9 a.m.) is going to be so great! Wake up to warm pancakes, turn on the fireplace, snuggle in a blanket and you have a weekend that couldn’t be better. No matter what your weekend plans are, these pancakes are a great, and healthy, way to start your day!
Oatmeal Pancakes
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups cooked oatmeal or steel cut oats
  2. 2 Tbls. baking powder
  3. 3 tsp. salt
  4. 1/2 cup, sugar
  5. 3 Tbls. oil
  6. 1/2 cup sour cream
  7. 4 eggs
  8. 2 cups milk
  9. 2 tsp. vanilla
  10. 2 1/2 cups flour
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Instructions
  1. Place the cooked oatmeal, baking powder, salt, sugar, oil, sour cream, eggs, milk, vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the flour one cup at a time until the batter is the right thickness. If your blender is not large enough to hold the flour, pour the mixture into a bowl and whisk the flour into the mixture.
  2. Heat a hot griddle and grease with butter or cooking spray. Pour a half cup portion of batter onto the griddle and cook until the bubbles in the pancake begin to pop. Flip the pancake and cook on the other side until golden brown. Serve with any of your favorite specialty syrups, apple pie filling, or maple syrup.
Notes
  1. *The great thing about these pancakes is they use leftover homemade oatmeal or steel cut oats. Every time I make oatmeal I always WAY over estimate how much my family will eat. The cooked oatmeal in this recipe is what makes these pancakes so extremely soft and spongy. If you don't have leftover cooked oatmeal you will want to microwave some oats in some water in the microwave until the water is dissolved (one part oatmeal to two times water).
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Bake Sale Success Take 2

Thank you to everyone who supported our annual charity bake sale. For those of you who are new to this tradition, it has become one of my favorite traditions in our neighborhood. Every year we choose a cause or family in our neighborhood who is need of a little love and financial help. We pass out hundreds of fliers, make posters and ask our neighborhood to come and support the cause. Every year my friends and I are overcome with emotion and gratitude for everyone who makes this event such a success. Last year was amazing, and this year was even bigger and better! I have to say, we have some of the most amazing cooks here in our area. By the end of the night we were all stuffed silly and totally up to our eyeballs in delicious sweets. Besides the fact I probably gained a few pounds over the weekend, we sure had a great time! I wish I took more pictures but we were too busy. Here are a few samplings of what we sold this year. The minnion cupcakes were a HUGE hit with the kids. Such a cute and clever idea!

These White Chocolate Brownie Trifles were a huge hit and only lasted a few seconds. Thankfully I grabbed one super fast..it was delicious! Here is Jamie’s recipe for this great treat.

These minnion cupcakes and cookie monster cupcakes were so cute. Cut a twinkie in half, use smarties as the eyes and use some black frosting you can pipe on the faces. Simple yet super cute!

Fresh produce from people’s gardens was also a big hit this year. Next year I will save some more peaches to sell, those were a big hit.

Annual Taste Test 2013

Along with our Iron Chef Competition the children (and adults) always look forward to our annual taste tests. This is where our family chooses one (or several) items we would like to taste test and decide which brand, product or flavor is our favorite. We have done this tradition for many years now and each year the kids get a kick out of it. All week we talk about what item/s we should taste test and then Papi and the Dad’s go shopping and come back with their surprise of what the items will be. This year they decided to go with a  fun taste test of which brand of cereal tastes the best. Because Malt-O-Meal cereals are generally less per ounce than the name brand cereals, my Dad wanted to find out if these knock-off brands are as good. Kind of ironic that when we were children these would have never been cereals found in our cupboard. I guess that’s the benefit of being a Grandpa. Ha!

My Dad had a heck of a time putting together this ‘scientific’ taste test with 40+ bowls of cereal for many hungry children and parents 😉 The kids thought this taste test was their absolute favorite so far–okay, well maybe next to the chocolate chip cookie taste off. They were thrilled to not eat the ‘healthy’ cereals their mom’s brought for breakfast the other mornings and were anxious to eat as much sugar cereal as their little hearts desired. We didn’t tell them that it was also a break for us mom’s. We ate out by the pool, threw the bowls away and were thrilled to go on with our day with no dishes. A win-win for all of us 🙂

 Could these boys be any happier? Who wouldn’t love marshmallows for breakfast 😉
Since I am sure you are all dying to know which cereal won the taste off you might be surprised that Malt-O-Meal won both the Lucky Charm and Captain Crunch taste off. In both cases there were more votes for the bagged cereal than the name brand. The Marshmallow Matey’s came in way ahead with only 3 out of 27 votes going towards the Lucky Charms. I was actually pretty surprised by that. The Captain Crunch taste off was a little closer with only a 3 vote win for the Berry Collasal Crunch winning over the Crunch Berry cereal. We had to laugh when we looked at the nutritional value differences between the four different cereals and wasn’t too surprised that the bagged cereal had more calories, more sugar and more fat than the name brand cereals. I guess I have to take part of the blame, considering my sugar tooth gene must have spread to my kids too 🙂 Sorry kiddos!

Creamy Potato Chowder

For those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know my family and I have a reunion each year in Park City where we do a lot of fun and crazy traditions. With 16 grandchildren, most being under the age of 8, we have to be creative and find ways to keep these kids busy. The Marriot we stay in has an awesome kid center with lots of activities and one of our favorites is the yearly Iron Chef Competition. This is hands down the highlight for the older cousins. Every time we come home we promise ourselves we will do this again throughout the year because the idea of it is so simple, and yet so fun. We all just meet at the kid center of the hotel and they give each of us the ‘secret ingredient’. We then go back to our rooms and whip up some amazing creations with that ingredient. We have one hour to finish the recipe and meet back for the big judging. This idea would be so fun for a family night activity, with neighbors or with several couples for date night. Whether you love to cook or not, it is a blast!




This year we had such a great time again! This year’s secret ingredient was a box of Jiffy Cornbread Muffin Mix. Last year the ingredient was apples, which was much more simple than this (the Apple Caramel Won Tons from last year were amazing!). However, we got to work and my sister Diana was going for the kid vote and went for the traditional corn dog. She just added an egg, a little flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and some milk to the mix and voila, the perfect corndog batter. She cut the hot dogs into thirds and made little corn dog bites. They were delicious and a hit with the kids (and the husbands) for sure!

I on the other hand went with a little more sophisticated pallet and came up with a creamy potato chowder. As I was making this chowder I quickly wrote down the ingredients in case it was worth sharing with you. I have to admit, humbly speaking of course, that this soup was awesome!! It was per
fectly creamy, a little spicy, had great texture, and the additions of bacon and swiss cheese really put this soup over the top. We were laughing hysterically that after a whole week of eating out of our fridge we were able to scrounge up enough ingredients to make a huge pot of soup. If you had seen our empty fridge shelves you would have been shocked.

I know it is not quite fall, but if you want to begin prepping for fall-soup-season, this soup is a great one to have at the top of your list. Give an Iron Chef Competition a try. You will love how simple and fun this activity can be for the entire family!!

Creamy Potato Chowder
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 red onion, chopped
  2. 1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
  3. 1 cup celery, diced
  4. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  5. 6 potatoes, peeled and diced
  6. 1 stick butter
  7. 2 cups chicken broth
  8. 1 box Jiffy Muffin Corn Bread Mix
  9. 2-3 tsp. salt
  10. 1 tsp. black pepper
  11. 1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  12. 1 tsp. parsley
  13. 3-4 cups half & half
  14. 8 oz. Swiss cheese, cubed into small pieces (half in soup and half for garnish)
  15. 1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
  16. 1 cup green onions, sliced
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Instructions
  1. 1/2 red onion, chopped
  2. 1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
  3. 1 cup celery, diced
  4. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  5. 6 potatoes, peeled and diced
  6. Chop the vegetables and place in a large soup pot (except the potatoes). Add the stick of butter and let it melt and saute with the vegetables until tender. Add the potatoes and stir. Let potatoes begin to soft for a couple minutes and then sprinkle over the vegetables the Jiffy Muffin Mix. Combine all of the ingredients together. Pour the chicken broth over the vegetables and let it simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  7. To the pot add the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, parsley, half & half and half of the Swiss cheese. Let soup continue to simmer on low heat until thick. While the soup is simmering, cook and crumble the bacon and slice the green onions. When the soup is finished, garnish each bowl of soup with green onions, bacon and the remaining half of the Swiss cheese cubes.
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Somehow my daughters and niece seem to beat me every year (refried bean cupcakes..come on?!). They won
first place again this year with their Cornbread Apple Pancakes with Butter Syrup. They
simply followed the recipe on the back of the box, added some chopped
apples and made some butter syrup for the topping. The jury is still
out, but I still think they won just because of the butter syrup. Who
can resist butter syrup?!? Not me! So, for another year I will have to
relinquish the title of first place and be happy with second 😉 I also
wanted to give a huge shout-out to the awesome gals in the kid center at
the Marriott. They dealt with all 17 kids all week and were so patient
and cute. We can’t wait to see you guys again next year!

Sugar Ray BBQ Pork Chops & Happy Pioneer Day!

For those of you outside of Utah, you probably are unaware of our Utah holiday we celebrate tomorrow. You see, 166 years ago a group of hot, dirty, tired, hungry, famished, pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley hoping to have a new start. A chance to finally practice their religion without persecution. Every year here in Utah we celebrate these pioneers and their courage who helped build this beautiful valley for us to enjoy today. I love Utah and feel it is such a special and wonderful place to live. If it weren’t for these pioneers I am not sure where my family would live or be right now.



This year, more than any in the past I feel even more grateful for my early ancestors who sacrificed so much. Many pioneers lost several members of their family to cold weather, fatigue or starvation. Last week I was able to join with nearly 500 youth and leaders on a ‘pioneer trek’ of our own, to celebrate their sacrifices. We were able to travel on the same trail that our early ancestors traveled on. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. Although we did nothing but walk (a lot–over 18 miles), sleep in the sage brush and dirt, got covered in mud, got little sleep and were surrounded by over 450 teenagers, it was an incredible time! I have to say, this experience has given me hope for our future. The youth we were with were SO strong, positive, happy, good and wholesome. I was amazed that even though we were walking in over 5 inches of slippery mud for nearly 3 miles, these kids never stopped smiling. They continued on without complaint and were often heard singing and laughing as we walked. I even found a new hero. His name is Carson (the young man in the middle top picture). He broke his femur less than a month ago and insisted that he walk the entire 18 miles, despite the mud and rain, all on crutches. He had sores under his arms from his crutches and through tears and sweat he never gave up. I told him I will be having my daughter hunt him down in a few years for marriage. He was so incredibly inspiring. I really can’t say enough about how wonderful these kids are. I miss being with them, crying with them, laughing and being together. It will be an experience I will never forget and I have to say I have a new appreciation for many things that I have always taken for granted–running water, a warm shower, a washing machine, a beautiful home, health and the chance to worship God how I choose. This year, between our country’s Independence Day and Pioneer Day you are able to give thanks for the many blessings we have been given. It’s a good life! 🙂

 

Okay, since the 24th of July we always have a bbq and get together as family I wanted to share a pork marinade that my family loves! It is a dry rub that makes the best pork chops or ribs you will ever have. You can grill the pork chops or bake them. Cover them in extra bbq sauce and you have a delicious dish everyone will love. Happy Pioneer Day!

 
Sugar Ray's Pork Ribs
Ingredients
  1. 6 boneless pork chops or 2lbs. ribs
  2. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  4. 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  5. 3 tsp. paprika
  6. Dash cayenne pepper
  7. 1 tsp. garlic powder
  8. 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  9. Favorite BBQ Sauce for dipping
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Instructions
  1. Combine all of the dry rub ingredients together in a bowl. Place the pork chops or ribs in a large bowl or Ziploc bag. Add the rub ingredients with the pork and let sit overnight or for several hours. When ready to cook the pork you can either grill on a barbeque or bake in a greased 9x13 pan until the pork is cooked through. Time will be different depending on how thick the pork is and what method you use. Just don't over cook the pork or it will dry it out. Serve the cooked pork with extra sauce.
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Cut your vacation food budget in half

Our friends at One Good Thing by Jillee asked me to write a guest post about ways I save money on our vacation food budgets. We are excited to be giving away two FREE membership to Deals to Meals as well as a $50 Walmart gift card to help you with your upcoming vacations. Visit her blog HERE to enter to win, or leave a comment on this blog and we will also enter you to win. Thanks and good luck!

Summer is in full swing and here at Deals to Meals we are excited to help all of you save money on your vacation food
budgets. If you are like my family, we love to vacation! With a family of 7
however, the food portion of our vacations can sometimes price our trips
out of our reach. Besides the hotel costs, the food expenses can be the next
highest cost of a trip. I am excited to share several tips that will help you
cut your vacation food budget in half (or more) and help you save money so you
can do all of the fun things you are hoping to do this summer.

1-Know your food budget before you go on vacation. If you don’t have
an idea of what you want to spend on food, it is easy to over spend. Food can
add up quickly and be a hefty part of your total vacation cost. Know what you
can afford and how much you want to spend, and try to stick to those figures.
Knowing your budget will help you determine where and what you should and
shouldn’t eat during the week.

1-Have a food budget before you go on your vacation. If you don’t
have an idea of what you want to spend on food, it is easy to way over
spend. Food can add up quickly and be a hefty part of your total
vacation cost. Know what you can afford and how much you want to spend
and try to stick to those figures. Knowing your budget will help you determine where you should and shouldn’t eat.

2-Do some research and have a plan before you leave. Before going on your
trip do a little research and put together a plan of where you will be eating
for each meal (whether in the hotel or out to eat). Find what food options are
in the areas you will be visiting and find places to go that have discount
coupons or specials. By simply doing a Google search you can find discounts on many
of your favorite places to eat. An example of this is restaurant.com where you
can get up to 50% off many restaurants in the areas you will be visiting. Whether
you are eating out each meal or cooking from your hotel it is good to know
where you are going and know a rough estimate of how much you will be spending
on food.

(Using Deals to Meals we got ten days of groceries for our family’s vacation for under $165!)

3-Stock up on snacks, treats and vacation items throughout the year when
they go on sale.
Many times people do their last minute vacation shopping
right before they leave on their trip. They buy snacks, treats, chips, fruit
drinks, soda, crackers, fruit snacks, etc. and find they have to pay full price
for these ‘vacation’ items. These items are great to keep kids quiet and happy
while traveling, but can break the bank if you pay full price. The best time to
stock up on these snack items are the first and last week in July (as well as
the week of Thanksgiving). These are the times when snack items go on sale for
their lowest prices. Instead of buying one box of crackers, stock up and buy
several so you can keep them in your own ‘grocery store’ in your pantry, and
have them on hand for several months to come. Having bought these items on sale
can save big throughout the rest of the year. If you have not had time to stock
up, remember to check Deals to Meals before
you go shopping to find the best deals in your area.
                               

4- Plan your vacation around the ability to make homemade meals where you
will be staying.
Families,
depending on the size, can easily spend anywhere from $30-$100 on
one meal. This can add up quickly if you are needing to eat out three meals a
day. That can be as much as $100-$250 a day spent just on food, depending where
you choose to eat. Could you eat at Taco Bell for less, yes, but who wants fast
food three times a day? So, the better option is to find ways to eat homemade
meals where you will be staying. Whether you are sleeping in a hotel, a rented
home/cabin, camping in the outdoors, or in a condo, you can easily cook
homemade meals and cut your food budget in half.

My family has made nearly 20 week long trips to Disneyland (I know, my
husband is a Mickey-fanatic). In the beginning we were spending nearly $800 on
food for a week at Disneyland. Food in Disneyland is not cheap and with a
family of 7 eating outside the park wasn’t a great option either. We found we
could eat homemade breakfasts, lunch, and dinner meals from our own hotel and
spent less than $150 for the entire week. How did we do it? Here are a few tips
of how to cook simple meals and save hundreds of dollars for the week.

a. Book a hotel with a microwave
and/or a mini fridge.
If they offer free ice, you could even do without a
fridge. Many times a hotel with a mini kitchen or microwave is only a few extra
dollars a night but can save you big on your food budget. Having a microwave
can make meal prep easy in your hotel.

b. Bring the right tools. When I
travel and plan on cooking in our hotel there are a few must-haves that make it
much easier for me. I always bring an electric skillet. Not a flat griddle, but
the skillets with the two inch sides. It is amazing what you can cook or warm
up in these skillets. I can cook nearly every breakfast, lunch and dinner
recipe I want between a microwave and a skillet. The skillet can be easily
packed and is large enough to cook food for a large family of 7 like my own. It
is also smart to bring paper products, plastic utensils, a kitchen scrubber,
paper towels, and a small container of dish soap to make clean up a cinch.

c. Choose the right hotel (or accommodations)
that allow you to prepare homemade meals in your room(s).
Booking a hotel
with a continental breakfast is not always the least expensive way to go. Most
of us can eat a pretty simple breakfast and be fine (toast, bagels, cereal,
fruit, yogurt, etc.). Many times the hotels that offer the free breakfast will
charge you more than it would cost for your family to eat your own breakfast in
the hotel room. If you can find a hotel with a reasonable continental breakfast
and the price is not more than you could feed your own family breakfast then
that is a good option.
Below are several meal options for breakfast, lunch and dinner that are easy
to prepare and serve in a hurry. If you are flying to your destination you
could easily make a quick shopping trip for some of these meals to make in your
hotel without a lot of effort. Preparing homemade meals and serving in your
hotel will save $100’s on your vacation budget.

BREAKFAST MEALS:
*Cereal
and milk
*Bagels,
cream cheese and fruit
*Yogurt
and granola
*Pancakes
(can be cooked on an electric skillet brought from home)–bring a box mix or
put the dry ingredients for a homemade pancake mix in a Ziploc bag and bring
the wet ingredients separate.
*Eggs
(can be fried on an electric skillet or in the microwave)–add some cheese and
hashbrowns and you could make breakfast burritos without a lot of effort.

LUNCH MEALS:
Lunch
meals are easy to pack and can be brought around easily on the road as you are
traveling. You can feed a family a healthy lunch for under $10, where as going
out for lunch (even at a fast food chain) would cost most families over
$25-$40. Here are a few of my favorite lunch options that can be brought from
home. Add a bag of chips, some veggies or fruit and you have a complete meal at
a low price.
*PB&J
sandwiches
*Lunchmeat
sandwiches (Monte
Cristo’s
, Cubans,
deli sandwiches, etc.)
*Tunafish
sandwiches
*Simple
Salads (Rumbi’s, Golden Gate Chicken Salad, Sesame Salad, etc.)

 
DINNER MEALS:
Here
are a few of my favorite simple dinner meals I pack from home when going on an
extended vacation. One time saving tip is to make a few of these meals 1-2
weeks prior to your vacation. Double the recipe and eat one batch for dinner
the week you make them and then freeze the second half for your vacation. It
takes a little more thought and prep, but makes cooking on the vacation simple
and hassle free.
*Tacos
(cook up the taco meat ahead of time, freeze and warm in the microwave or
skillet for a quick meal). Pack along shredded cheese, salsa, lettuce and taco
shells and you have a quick and inexpensive dinner. I usually bring extra taco
meat and serve the rest in a taco salad later in the week (just bring more
lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, ranch dressing, chips and a can of kidney beans).
*Soups
or Stews
–soups can easily be made ahead of time and frozen for your
vacation. Warm up in the microwave and serve with store bought rolls for a
quick dinner. If you are in a hurry you could even just use canned soups or
stews.
*Shredded
BBQ Pork Sandwiches-
-crock pot a large pork loin, shred and freeze the meat
for your vacation. Frozen pork thaws perfectly. You can add some bbq sauce for
a nice sandwich or serve in a burrito as a wrap. Serve with fresh fruit and
chips and you won’t be dissapointed.
*Shredded
Pork Tacos
or Carne
Asada Tacos
-these tacos are one of my favorite are simple to make on the
go. Just cook and shred the pork ahead of time and all you have to pack is some
salsa, corn tortillas and cheese. Make these tacos on your skillet to melt the
cheese and you have a simple dinner.
*Quesadillas
or grilled cheese sandwiches
are simple and inexpensive to make. Add some
refried beans to the quesadillas to help fill your family up or some ham to
your grilled cheese for extra flavor.
*Breakfast
for dinner
is another simple approach to dinner. A good old’ pancake dinner
never hurt anyone for dinner and is much less expensive to make than most
meat-heavy dinners.
*Potato
Bar
-this is simple to make away from home if you just microwave the
potatoes and cut up the toppings ahead of time at home. When ready to serve
just open up the potatoes, place the toppings on top and you have a dinner
ready in just a few minutes.
*BLT Sandwiches-Buy the precooked
bacon that can be warmed in the microwave, throw on a piece of toast with
lettuce and tomatoes and dinner is done! Serve with a side pasta salad made
from home or a store bought salad to share

If you don’t have room to pack all of the ingredients for these meals, I
often pack the frozen meat and dairy items (usually the most expensive parts to
a recipe) in our cooler and then shop for the produce and bread at a grocery
store on vacation. With a membership to Deals to Meals you can login to our
website anywhere in the U.S. and know what the best grocery deals are in your
area.

ENTER TO WIN:
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At Deals to Meals we help you save $100’s on
your grocery budget every month by telling you where the best grocery deals are
in your area. We then take those best deals and turn them into a weekly menu
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and homemade recipes your whole family is sure to love!
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Peanut Butter Frosting & Birthday Cakes

 
 
 (Good thing he is so stinking cute–it makes up for an ugly cake 🙂
Life is funny, isn’t it? When will I learn that if you throw judgement out to the world you will eventually have to eat your words. In this case, it’s birthday cake I’ll be eating 🙂 This is awful, but I used to look at people who made a quick birthday cake (from a box) for their children and inwardly mock them (just a little 🙂 that they couldn’t whip out a fancy, decorated, cute and fun birthday cake. As a kid I always wanted a fancy cake and I always got a boxed cake. I swore when I had kids I would take the time to make a nice, elaborate birthday cake for them. Well, for 10 years and nearly 45 birthday cakes later I have become the person I mocked. I don’t know what it is about life but I can barely get a boxed cake put together for my children’s birthdays. I feel badly that our cute three year old has had the worlds lamest birthday cakes in his short legged life. No Winnie the Pooh cake, no Buzz Lightyear, no Cars 2 birthday cake. Just some delicious peanut butter frosting all over a boxed chocolate cake. Now, it may not look great, but I do have to admit this cake is a family favorite and the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is incredible (especially if you are a chocolate peanut butter lover like myself!). 

(M&M’s in the shape of a number–oh boy, my lack of creativity is astounding 🙂
 

June is the end of our birthday streak of four birthday’s in our family and nearly 10 other extended family’s birthdays. From May 2nd until now we have had so many birthday parties we can hardly count. I have eaten my fare share of cakes these past weeks and although my children’s cakes this year were nothing special to look at, they sure did taste good! I thought I would share with you my Grandma’s favorite peanut butter frosting recipe. If you are new to peanut butter frosting, you are going to love it! Make it for your next birthday party and hopefully your family will know you love them, despite the lack of piped decorations on their cake 🙂

(I wasn’t sad at all when my daughter chose Chocolate Caramel Cake as her cake of choice–another one of my favorites!)

 

(Mint brownies were the choice for my daughters 13th birthday–who doesn’t love brownies?!?)

Peanut Butter Frosting
Ingredients
  1. 1 c. peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)--I love crunchy but your frosting will not be smooth (see my pictures above 😉
  2. 1/2 stick butter
  3. 1 t. vanilla
  4. 1/3-1/2 c. milk, start with one third and add more if needed
  5. 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  6. Dash of salt
  7. 1 recipe chocolate cake, cooked and cooled
Add ingredients to shopping list
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, place the peanut butter and butter. With an electric mixer, beat until smooth. Add 1/3 cup of milk, dash of salt, and vanilla and beat for another minute. Add the powdered sugar until the thickness of the frosting is to your liking. If you need a little more powdered sugar, add by the tablespoon until the frosting is thick enough to spread. Once the frosting is to the texture you would like, continue to whip for another two minutes until soft and airy. Spread over the cake once it is cooled.
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Here are some more delicious birthday cake recipes to choose from 🙂
 

Summer Vacations

Summer is in full swing and I am sure many of you are planning and having a great time on your summer vacations. Our family just got back from a week in Yellowstone and had a great time, saw a bear, ate lots of great food, walked miles of boardwalk, saw several hot pots, went river rafting and had a great time on our family reunion. I hope all of you are having a great summer and enjoying the warm weather and being together with your family. If you need some simple food and menu planning ideas for your vacations, visit this post to find out some of my favorite meals and tips to make your vacation inexpensive and more enjoyable.

I am a huge fan of camping and mountain vacations, but I do have to admit if I had a choice I would definitely choose being by the beach, somewhere in the Caribbean. This week we are going to be blogging some of our favorite Caribbean favorite recipes. Whether you are visiting somewhere warm and exotic this summer or not, we can at least have a taste of the islands in our own kitchens, right? 😉

I would love to hear the fun places you are traveling this summer. Our family
tends to go to a lot of the same places, so I would love to hear where
your favorite places are to visit 😉

Zucchini Brownies

Happy Independence Day! I hope you have some fun plans this weekend to be able to celebrate this holiday, and the amazing country we live in. I feel so blessed to live in America. I am grateful for all of the freedoms we enjoy and for all those who have sacrificed so much so we could live in a free country. Every time I see the flag and the servicemen walk through the parades I get choked up and say a little prayer of gratitude for all the blessings we have in America.

 Shade at a parade with 103 degree weather was also something to be grateful for!
Where is the Deals to Meals float? I might just be working all year to finally make it into our neighborhood parade, then I’ll know I have made it! 🙂 We are thinking we could throw cans of food instead of taffy?!? What do you think?

Now, let’s talk fourth of July desserts. What is more American than a brownie? A gooey, homemade chocolate brownie is probably one of the highlights about hanging out at the park waiting for fireworks to start. My sister always makes an amazing batch of brownies, covers them in cream cheese frosting and decorates the top of the brownies like a flag with blueberries and strawberries. This year she has decided to break that tradition (grr!) and so it was up to me to provide the brownies for the park celebrations. However, I was plum out of berries and I wasn’t about to venture to the store on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. So, we had to go with second best and that is a homemade brownie with soft, fluffy, homemade chocolate frosting. Really for me, the more chocolate the better, so these brownie babies are a sure bet to curbing my patriotic chocolate craving later tonight. Now, you can either serve our go-to-most-amazing-best-ever brownie recipe, or give these Zucchini Brownies a try. I picked my first two zucchinis out of my garden today and was so excited to make this awesome recipe for these brownies. They have much less fat than regular brownies and they are extremely moist and rich. Lower in fat…who doesn’t need that this time of year?!?

Zucchini Brownies
Brownies
  1. 1/4 cup butter, softened
  2. 1/4 cup applesauce
  3. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  4. 2 tsp. vanilla
  5. 2 cups zucchini, shredded
  6. 2 cups flour
  7. 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  8. 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  9. 1 tsp. salt
Go-To Chocolate Frosting
  1. 1 stick butter, room temperature (not too soft or the frosting will be too soft)
  2. 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  3. 1 tsp. vanilla
  4. 1/3 cup milk
  5. 4-4 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  6. Dash of salt
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Brownies: In a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, mix together the butter, sugar, cocoa and vanilla until completely smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and spread into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (don't over bake but make sure the center is cooked through). Cool the brownies on the counter and then frost with chocolate frosting.
  2. Frosting: In a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, blend together the butter, cocoa powder, vanilla and milk until smooth and soft. Add the powdered sugar and dash of salt and continue to mix on medium-high speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 4-6 minutes. The longer you whip the frosting, the smoother and fluffier it will be. If your frosting is too thick, add a few teaspoons of milk or if it's too runny, add a little more powdered sugar. Spread over the cooled brownies.
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These brownies are so fudgy and moist you might just need a fork 😉
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Butter Lime Corn on the Cob

Have you been asked to bring a side dish to your barbeques this weekend? Here are a few of our favorite side dishes that are sure to wow your friends & family!

If you have not tried grilled corn on the cob yet, this will be a must on our holiday menu this week! There are few things better than sweet, grilled corn on the cob smothered in a specialty butter. We have become huge fans of the Nacho Libre Chili Corn on the Cob we posted about a month ago. We switched up the butter recipe and came up with this Lime Butter Corn on the Cob that is also out of this world good!!
 

 

 
Butter Lime Grilled Corn
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 c. butter, softened
  2. 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  3. Juice of 1/2 lime
  4. Zest of 1/2 lime
  5. 2 T. cilantro, chopped
  6. Dash of cumin
  7. Dash of cayenne pepper
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
  9. 8-10 cobs of corn, husked
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Pull the corn husks down to the bottom of the corn. Turn a grill to medium-high heat. Place the corn on the cob on the grill leaving the husks hanging out of the grill. Cook on all sides until they the kernels turn a darker yellow color and have a little charring. Once the corn is done, remove from the grill and put on a plate. Melt all of the butter ingredients together and spread all over the corn.
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Fall Off the Bone Baby Back Ribs & Fathers Day Tribute

I am super picky when it comes to ribs.  I want the meat to just fall of the bone, I like them to be sweet and juicy and most of all I don’t want to deal with the sticky mess that they can make on the grill.  So after years of trial and error I figured out what I think is the best way to cook baby back ribs.  The recipe is really more technique based so please feel free to change up the spices and sauce to your liking. Some people love spicy ribs, and other like dry rubs so knock yourself out. I however love anything that has sugar in it so I went with a sweeter type BBQ sauce.  These ribs are a family favorite and are requested from friends and neighbors all the time.  I also love that you can throw them in the oven and leave for 5 hours to run errands and you have perfectly cooked ribs when you get home. This recipe is for 3 racks so keep in mind you can get away with cooking them for less time if you are only making 1 rack.  The best consistent price on baby backs I have found is at Costco or Sams club and they come in a package of three, so I just cook them all and if I happen to have leftovers I either share the wealth or have them for a picnic the next day. Enjoy!

 


Fall Off the Bone Baby Back Ribs
Ribs
  1. 3 racks pork baby back ribs
  2. 1 orange sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  3. 1 small sweet onion such as vidalia, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  4. 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce, I like sweet baby rays original
  5. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  6. 3 tbsp honey
  7. Kosher salt
  8. Ground pepper
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 225. Place a large piece of foil over a rimmed 11 x 17 baking sheet wraps sides tightly and spray with cooking spray. Spread sliced oranges and onions evenly on the baking sheet and place the three rack of ribs on top trying not to let them over lap. Season with salt and pepper then brush with 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce. Cover ribs with two more sheets of foil and wrap edges tightly so that no air or moisture can escape. This is the technique that keeps them juicy. As the onions and orange cook they will release moisture into the ribs as the ribs cook slowly. To prevent any tears or punctures in the foil I recommend using the larger roll of heavy duty foil.
  2. Place the baking sheet in the oven at 225, this is not a misprint...cook them low and slow! After 5 hours the ribs will be super tender. At this point remove the top layers of foil, drain the liquids that have accumulated. Mix the remaining cup of BBQ sauce with the brown sugar and honey and brush over the top. Return to the oven and broil on high for 5 minutes or until the BBQ sauce starts to bubble and brown in a few spots. Remove from the oven and let them rest for 10 minutes then serve.
  3. TIP: Ovens very a great deal, in my old oven these ribs would be perfect at 4 hours but in my new oven its closer to 5 1/2 hours. If you are making them for the first time I recommend pulling back the foil at 4 hours and seeing how tender they are. Be careful not to let too much steam and moisture escape as that is what keeps them from drying out. Check them every 30 minutes after 4 hours until you know the perfect cooking time for your oven.
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Fathers Day Tribute for My Perfect husband

 

Every time I make these ribs I think back to a day a few years back when my husband got a promotion and asked me to make a special meal for all of his co-workers.  What better man food than racks of delicious baby back ribs?  My favorite part of cooking is to see the expressions on peoples faces when they take the first bite of something delicious that you have created just for them.  Those moments are priceless to me. There is not a group of people I would rather treat to a great meal than a room full of soldiers.

 

My husband Richard is a BlackHawk pilot in the Utah National Guard and although deployment and military life in general is extremely challenging, I couldn’t be more proud of the life my husband has chosen to lead. He is the most genuine, caring, spiritual, hard-working man I have ever met as well as extremely funny and incredibly handsome.  Everyday I am in awe that he chose me to be his eternal spouse.  What an honor that is!

The best part about my husband however is that he takes being a great father to a level I have never before witnessed.  There is no doubt in my mind that the well-being of me and his beautiful three daughters is his top priority always.  He is the type of man who rushes to get home everyday to spend time with his family, when he is out of town or out of the country for work he Skypes us every chance he gets and will read stories to the girls over the phone.  He helps with housework, does whatever he can to lift the my burdens and the burdens of those he cares about. I really could go on forever about how great Richard is!

I am so thankful to have a spouse that serves his family so faithfully and who also has chosen to serve his country.  He is my hero in so many ways.

 

Thank you Richard for giving me everything I have ever wanted in life.  You are the type of man that fairy tales are written about. I love you!  Happy fathers day!!!!

Grilled Steak & Parmesan Herb Butter

 

We have one week to put together our anticipated Father’s Day Menu and I am excited to share with you some of Ellen’s and my favorite ‘man-food’ recipes. For my husband this would include anything meaty and stick to your ribs goodness. It would not include anything with rice or warm fruit. Needless to say I won’t be cooking him any curry dishes this Sunday. So, I have had to branch out a little and prepare some hearty, meaty dishes to share with you (I have to admit I didn’t mind and am actually part carnivorous myself 🙂

This first recipe takes a simple, boring steak to a whole new level! The Parmesan Herb Butter you brush on the steak as it’s cooking, as well as adding it on top of your cooked steak, gives this steak a huge boost of flavor. Grilling the steak also gives the steak a nice, flavorful char on the outside but keeps the center of the steak nice and pink and tender. This steak pretty much will melt in your mouth and will take an inexpensive cut of beef to a whole new level! The men in your life are sure to love this dish!

Grilled Parmesan Buttered Steak
Ingredients
  1. 2-3 lbs. boneless or bone-in beef steaks
Parmesan Herb Butter
  1. 1 stick butter, softened
  2. 3/4 c. parmesan cheese
  3. 2-3 T. fresh parsley
  4. 1 clove garlic
  5. Dash cayenne pepper
  6. Dash paprika
  7. 1/4 t. black pepper
  8. 1/4-1/2 t. salt
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Broil or grill steak to desired doneness. The steaks on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a grill to medium-high heat and place the steaks on the hot grill. Grill on both sides until the center of the steaks are cooked to your liking. While the steaks are cooking, put all of the butter ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth and the parsley and garlic have been broken down. When steaks are nearly done on the grill, spread a thin layer of parmesan butter on top of the steak. Remove from the grill and place on a plate to rest. When ready to serve, place another dallop of butter on top of the steak to enjoy while eating.
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 Extra Herb Butter can be frozen for a later time in a small tupperware.

Serve this steak with Garlic Roasted Broccoli (recipe coming this week) and Roasted Potatoes
makes for a well rounded and pretty dish. For these potatoes all I do
is cut russet or red potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces and place on a cookie
sheet. I drizzle olive oil on them and then sprinkle a packet of dry
onion soup mix on top. Toss to coat and then sprinkle the top of the
potatoes with a little seasoning salt. Bake at 425 for 15-18 minutes or
until the potatoes are tender and golden brown. The melted Parmesan Butter on these potatoes makes them absolutely amazing!

In honor of Father’s Day, Ellen and I wanted to post each day this week about a father who we love, and who has affected our lives. I am saving my own Father’s post for Saturday,  but couldn’t let this year go by without telling the father of my children how much I love him! I have known Todd ever since I was six years old. We grew up one house away from each other and have cared about, and loved each other as long as we can remember (minus his awkward 14 year old stage where his name was ‘the it’ and none of my girl friends would even say his name…he was that annoying! Thankfully that stage passed quickly and I was head over heels once again a year later 🙂

When I was 12 I wrote in my journal that I wanted to marry him (scary thought now that I have a 13 year old!! AHH). From a young age, Todd reminded me of my own Dad who I looked up to and adored. He is one of the most fun loving, patient, temperate, kind, non-judgmental, funny, positive people I know. He does not have a mean bone in his body–I’m not kidding. It’s almost scary how kind he is! Compared to me anyway 😉

I truly feel blessed and thank God every day that I have him in my life. He is my best friend and someone who I can lean on through good times and bad. We have had some rough years and big trials to overcome through these short 14 years, but every experience has made us stronger and helped us love each other even more. Marriage is not always easy, but for us, it is totally worth it and the best part of our life!

Not only is Todd an amazing husband, he is hands down, the best Dad I know. He is extremely busy and yet he takes so many small moments to hug the kids, play a game with them, snuggle the kids, throw a ball with our sons, go to their sporting events, goes to scout camp and does everything he can to be involved in their lives. We feel so blessed that he can work from home (he’s the brains behind the business portion of Deals to Meals) and has so much time to be with our kids. Although he has more to do than there is time, he is always taking those small moments to walk away from work and give the kids the one-on-one time they need. He really is so amazing and I am thankful this year, as well as all years, that I have been blessed with the man of my dreams! I love you Todd!!

Welcome aboard Ellen!


There are times in life when you meet people and you know that somewhere, before this life you were friends. This is how I felt the first time I met my new, dear friend Ellen. I feel so blessed already, to have so many great friends, but I couldn’t have been happier when Ellen moved across the circle from us. She is one of the most talented, spunky, energetic, amazing people I know. I heard she was a great cook before she moved in, but until she brought me her bread pudding the week she moved in (um…something wrong here. Shouldn’t I have been the one bringing her food?!? That’s how on the ball she is!). She brought over warm, caramely, bread pudding with this vanilla glaze that about sent me through the roof! As you know, I am a huge fan of bread pudding, so that was the first sign that we would be friends. My family and I sat down and pretty much inhaled the pudding and when we were done my son Conner said, “Mom…how do you feel that our new neighbor cooks better than you do?” What?!? How dare he say that! j/k I burst up laughing and had to eat a huge piece of humble pie because her bread pudding WAS much better than mine.
With that said, there has not been an item of food that has come from her kitchen that I have not rolled my eyes at with deligh. From her Strawberry Cream Puffs to her Goat Cheese and Citrus Shrimp appetizers, she is, hands down, one of the best cooks I have ever met.
This is the other thing about Ellen. Not only does she have the talent of being an amazing chef, she is crafty and cutesy-clever, which is my downfall (to say the least!). It takes all I have in my creative brain to take a picture of my food, let alone do anything to make it look cute or worth presenting (I went to school to be an accountant remember…creative genes run low in my family) Ellen however, has this talent of making her food not only taste great, but look beautiful as well. She is a modern day Martha Stewart.
You are probably wondering why I am telling you all these great things about Ellen? It’s because she is an answer to my prayers. Literally. With the growth of our company (Deals to Meals) I have had less and less time to put towards my blog. I always have dreams of making it something amazing and fabulous and then at the end of the day, I am just a tired mom and burned out business owner. I find my blog is always getting pushed to the back burner when there is so much that could be done with it. I had been thinking about (and praying about) ways I could spruce up my blog. It was then that Ellen mentioned she has always wanted to have a food blog. A lightbulb went off in my head and I realized we were a food bloggers match made in heaven! Our philosophy of food, cooking, our style, our recipes and everything are so similar that I am thrilled to have her join our blogging team. 
Now, the truth is, Ellen will someday become huge, famous, write a cookbook and leave me in the dust. But that’s okay. We will keep her while she is willing to deal with my sub-par, somewhat adequate blog and be so grateful for what she will bring and do for our site. For now, she will be blogging at least once a week and I will be delighted every time she does. She has an incredible Citrus Chicken dish that I will post about tomorrow as her first debut recipe 😉 As for now, I wanted to just introduce her to you and let you know that you will want to follow her recipes and get pumped whenever you see a blog post by Ellen. Get ready for some new flavors, new techniques and dishes that will wow your taste buds.
Ellen, welcome aboard friend!!
(We knew we were bosom buddies when we realized we both have a cartoon caricature! How cute is that!!)

Garden Time!

 

I can’t believe it is garden-time already! Could that picture get any cuter? My youngest son cracks me up! It is funny (or should I say sad?) how the older my kids get, the less they want to hang out with me. I knew those days would come but I am sad they seem to be coming sooner than I expected. Everyone wants to be with their friends and the only one left wanting to hang out with Mom is my not-so-baby Blake. What would I do without his smiley face and chubby cheeks with me all the time? Sadly, I know his day will come too when friends will out-win Mom, but for now, I enjoyed a morning in the garden with my little buddy 😉 Don’t you love the humongous sun hat he is wearing? I bought this to help shade my burned skin and it has become a favorite of mine…and my kids. They think it’s an umbrella and like to stand under it by me. It sure makes gardening a little more doable.

 

Well, I have been a little lazy and am a week late for planting my garden. However, it was good to be back up digging in the dirt again. I am still a HUGE fan of the garden boxes we made a couple of years ago. Weeding takes literally 15 minutes and with a little tilling of the dirt with a rake, I was ready to plant in just a short few minutes. I spent $50 at our local IFA store and I was able to buy/plant several different kinds of pepper plants, tomatoes, egg plants, green cabbage, spinach, lettuce, green beans, bell peppers, sweet peas, butternut squash, banana squash, strawberries, zucchinis (TONS–I love zucchini!), yellow squash, broccoli and herbs. The great thing about planter boxes if you plant the different vegetables, set your sprinkler to water regularly, all you to do is wait patiently for everything to grow. I don’t do anything from now until harvest season. The dirt creates the magic and helps things grow quickly and well! If you want more info about what type of dirt combination I used in my garden boxes, visit this post for lots of tips 😉

(Don’t you love his backwards shirt? It looks like I should spend less time in the kitchen and more time teaching my son how to dress himself 😉

If you are new to gardening, don’t be afraid. Start small. There is no need to be discouraged. You can grow anything from fresh herbs in a pot, to a couple plants along your house or on your deck in a flower pot. I promise, once you begin having fresh produce from your own yard, you will be addicted! I am far from having a green thumb…like I said, it takes a little kick in the pants to get me out there, but once I have my plants in the ground, the rest is easy. Having a garden is a great way to help your monthly food budget stretch in the summer months. With a $50 investment (once you have the boxes built) you will reap BIG money-saving rewards later in the year. Happy gardening!

 (If only the obnoxious weeds around the garden boxes were as easy to pull as the ones inside! I guess that will have to happen another day.)

 

Strawberry Cupcakes

 
 
Happy Mothers Day to all of you wonderful women out there! This is a great time of year to take time to give a special thanks to all of the amazing women in our lives who influence us for good, and help us be the people we are today. I know I will be eternally grateful for my own Mother and all of the inspiring and loving women I am so blessed to be around on a daily basis. I love you all!
 
I am sure many of you are busy putting together gifts, purchasing cards and getting some delicious chocolate together for a present. If you are like me however, it will be Saturday night and I will have procrastinated most of those things and will most likely make something homemade for my Mother and Mother-in-law. In the end I always enjoy something homemade anyway better than store bought, so hopefully they are okay with that 🙂
 
My dessert of choice this year is going to have to be these delicious strawberry cupcakes. Now, over the past several years I have tried to master the art of cupcakes. Let’s just say I won’t be making it on Cupcake Wars any time soon! The number of cupcake pictures and recipes I have invented and thrown out is hilarious! I seem to never get the cake to be the right texture or the frosting to hold up to a pretty piped topping. This is until I met my friend Ellen. She is an amazing cook! The other day she brought me over a plate of these cupcakes (below). They were the prettiest cupcakes I have ever seen! Not only that, but the frosting tasted like a mousse that was SO good I had to eat EVERY cupcake on the plate (I’m not kidding…sick, I know!) After eating almost all six cupcakes (well, at least the frosting off the top anyway) in a few hour period I decided I had to try and recreate her frosting recipe. Now, she is such a great cookbook she is going to publish a cookbook one day and so her frosting recipe is top secret. So, I had to do a little research and I think I found one that was pretty darn close. I knew hers had flour and milk in the beginning steps, so I was hoping I came up with one similar. I did bring her a cupcake and she was quite impressed with the results 😉 So, this frosting recipe is definitely a keeper! The best part about this frosting, besides the taste, is it can hold up to a pipping job on a cupcake. It can hold stiff peaks (because it is made with flour), although it is able to stay light, airy and the perfect textured frosting. Give your frosting making skills a new twist and try this decadent strawberry frosting on any of your favorite cakes or cupcakes 😉

 
Whipped Strawberry Frosting
Ingredients
  1. 5 Tbs. flour
  2. 1 cup milk
  3. 2 sticks of slightly softened butter
  4. 2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  5. Dash of salt
  6. 2-3 fresh strawberries, smashed
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Pour the milk and flour in a sauce pan and whisk together until smooth. Turn heat to medium heat and whisk continually until mixture is firm and thick, about 4-5 minutes. Be careful that the flour does not burn or cook too high. Remove the mixture from the heat and add 2 t. vanilla. Whisk and then place a piece of saran wrap on top of the mixture and place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is cold. Once the mixture is cold, pour the mixture into a mixing bowl (or Bosche/Kitchen Aid mixer). Beat for 1-2 minutes to soften the flour/milk mixture. Then add
  1. 2 sticks of slightly softened butter. Beat until smooth and then add the powdered sugar, salt and fresh mashed strawberries. Beat for 7-8 minutes, or until frosting is completely fluffy and soft (the longer you beat, the better).
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 This frosting is also great in a puff pastry! Here is our recipe for eclairs that can easily be adpated into a puff pastry shape and pipe the frosting inside the middle.

Hola Amigos!

 

So, you may or may not have noticed, but I have been pretty much m.i.a. this past week. For years my husband and I have been saving up to go on a romantic get-away to Cancun and the much anticipated time finally came. We spent this past week in absolute paradise. Our last couple trip was when I was pregnant with our third child (almost 10 years ago) and so we were thrilled to have a chance to get away and spend time with each other. With our busy lives and crazy work schedule, we had such a great time spending a week of total relaxation. We stayed in a new hotel on the Cancun Penninsula and it was amazing! It was all you could eat (I am still scared to stand on the scale!!) and we ate ourselves sick. The food was great and I ate chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our other favorites were their guacamole, fresh salsa and their coconut ice cream–we ate WAY too much of all of it this week! Besides the delicious food and time with my hubby, we were able to travel around and see many of the Mayan ruins. We went to Chichen Itza, Coba, Ek-Balam (amazing!), swam in cenotes, went snorkeling, ate at cute little local restaurants and enjoyed every minute of our hotel.

Thanks for being patient with me as I get back into normal life and have to make food for myself again, so I can blog again. I was spoiled for a week to be waited on. After not cooking for a couple weeks after my burn, I don’t remember if I know how 😉 I’ll get back into the swing of things and post some yummy re-creations I had in Cancun that I want to try and make at home! Have a wonderful week and I hope you get to enjoy a little sunshine and happiness where ever your daily paradise is 😉 Here is a quick travel log of our favorite moments of our trip.

 Underground cenotes that were so fun to swim in. The water was all fresh water, clean and such a pretty crystal blue color. These were water holes that allowed the ancient Mayan people survive for so many generations.

Here we are at one of the six resteraunts at the hotel. The steak was incredible as well as our favorite pork dish called Cochinita Pibil. I have been searching for a copycat recipe but I need achiote paste. Anyone know where to buy that? So yummy!!

Isn’t the Carri bean the most beautiful place ever?!? It is such a turquoise blue it looks like blue jello. It was incredible and so much better than our cold weather here at home.

This was Sunday morning before we went to an LDS church in Cancun. We drove around the city and it was humbling to see the neighborhoods and surroundings these people live in. Their homes (if they had them) were made of sticks/wood or cement. To us these homes wouldn’t even be worthy of being a shack, and yet families of several people lived in them. So sad! The Mexican people were so humble and sweet. My husband served an LDS mission in Honduras so he felt homesick for all the people he loved in that country. It was fun to hear him speak to all of the people and get to use his Spanish again. We had an amazing time visiting with the local people of that area, we met some amazing people. We are so blessed here in America, we all left feeling so guilty for everything we’ve been given. Seeing the way ot