Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wet Your Whistle Wednesday: Coffee Shop Copy-cat!

I love fru-fru coffee shop drinks! I especially love those blended ice drinks topped with copious amounts of fresh whipped cream! I'm drooling just typing about it! When I do indulge in one of these coffee shop creations, I go all out. Who actually has enough self control to just order the tall? Not only do I hate the $4.00 price tag, I crave these treats so often that I could easily put us in debt! I had to find a way to make this icy treat at home!!! After making one coffee shop delight at home I realized that being an at home barista had its advantages! I could control the fat content, amount of sugar, amount of coffee (or lack of coffee), etc. I could make my drink any flavor or combination of flavors. This was surely my moment of genius! So after reading about a bazillion recipes, I came up with a tasty knock-off double chocolate chip blended ice beverage!!

Ingredients :
1/4 cup flavored coffee creamer ( vanilla is my fave!)
3/4 cup milk ( I used 2%) 
1 Tbsp sugar, optional
2-3 Tbsp chocolate syrup ( more or less to your liking)
2 cups crushed ice
4 Tbsp chocolate chips ( I was out, so I used crunch bars!)
* if you want the Java Chip flavor, add a couple tablespoons of instant coffee powder*

Once you've gathered your ingredients simply layer in a blender the milk, cream, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips and sugar ( coffee powder also if you like a coffee flavor). Lastly, add in the crushed ice. By adding the crushed ice last, your blender can work more efficiently, protecting the longevity of your blender's blades, and resulting in a smoother drink!

Once you've added the ingredients to your blender, set your blender to the frappe setting; or if your blender is low tech like mine, the highest setting will do just fine! I always keep the milk and chocolate syrup handy just in case the mixture becomes too thick or chunky, and the chocolate syrup in case it's not chocolatey enough for my liking ; ) Allow the drink to blend until ice is well incorporated and chocolate chips ( or crunch bars :)) are broken into bits!

All that's left is to pour this delicious, icy drink into the cup of your choice, top with whipped cream, or enjoy the drink whipped-topless like I do! This recipe filled the glass you see pictured above TWICE! I definitely enjoyed my $7.00 of savings and the ability to enjoy my drink sans make-up and in my pajamas! Score!

Happy mid-week to you all! I hope you found some time to wet your whistle today with your favorite drink! Next time you're dreaming of fru-fru coffee, and have a minute, take a shot at whipping up your own!! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tidy-Up Tuesday: The Ultimate Household Cleaning Recipe

I'm not sure of it's my desire for warmer weather or my nesting instincts kicking in, but I have been in cleaning overdrive! My frenzy is even starting to rub off on G.I. Joe! Usually I'd run out to my favorite place...Dollar Tree : ) and load up on chemical cleaners and powders and go to town. But nowadays with a baby boy bun in the oven, ingredients that I can't pronounce are a no-go ( and really should have been a no go all along!). After perusing Pinterest I found a recipe for a, so called, "miracle cleaner" that was made with cheap, easily recognizable ingredients that I could feel good about using! So of course I had to give it as try!

The recipe called for two common household ingredients that I usually have on hand making this little concoction even more appealing! According to the directions you simply mix 1 cup of classic blue Dawn dish soap with 1 cup of white distilled vinegar. I know the combination sounds weird but vinegar has been a trusted cleaning agent for years and blue dawn always seems to work a little magic! So I whipped up a batch, and gave this potion a shot! Guess what?! I loved it! I have since mixed up and used two additional batches. 

Need to clean your shower but dread the idea of scrubbing until your arms are sore? Simply mix up a batch of this cleaner, and spray it on your shower surfaces. Allow the cleaner to sit for 30 minutes or as long as overnight for tough, built up soap scum! After the cleaner has been allowed to sit, simply scrub once, and rinse! Ta-da! No more soapy build up or shower scum!

Not only is this cleaner excellent for showers, it also works wonders on appliances, kitchen counters, sinks, and honestly, just about everything! I will never buy another cleaning product again! I feel good about using this in my home around E and the new baby! My wallet also enjoyed the savings! 

Looking to clean carpet or upholstery in your home or car? Simply add 1 cup of club soda to the magic blue mix. So just to recap, that's 1 cup blue Dawn+ 1 cup white distilled vinegar + 1 cup club soda = blue fabric magic! Simply mix the solution, shake, and spray on the desired area. **Remember to check for color fastness on an inconspicuous area first! Vinegar has bleach like qualities on some fabrics and dyes!** After you've sprayed the area, use a scrub brush or sponge to clean any stains or grime from your carpet/upholstery! E spilled an entire cherry Slurpee a few days ago on our cream colored carpet! I simply sprayed the area with this cleaner, allowed it to soak in, topped with a little baking soda ( for an extra boost of effervescence), scrubbed, and the stain was gone! Seriously, NEVER buying another cleaning product again! Thank you Pinterest, I'll call this one a success!

Next time you feel like welcoming warm weather with a squeaky clean house or just feel like tidying up on a Tuesday, I highly recommend this little blue gem! Try it out for yourself, you won't be disappointed! Happy Tuesday friends!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Make-it Monday: Date Nights on-the-go!

Date night? What's date night? Between the mountains of laundry, G.I. Joe's work schedule, carting E to school, and adding a new member to our ranks, date night seems to be a thing of the past. Don't get me wrong- I love my husband, he is my absolute best friend and my favorite person in the world to spend time with, but as a young married couple, sometimes the "making time" part is the hardest. I craved a way to add date night back in to our busy married life. I needed options that were:

(1) pre-planned: NO MORE "what do you want to do?""I don't know, what about you?" discussions!
(2) kid friendly: as a military family, babysitters are limited. Often E needs to come along.
(3) included at home options: Once the new baby is here, at home dates will be our "go-to" dates for a while.
(4) low cost or no cost: we're busy buying things for baby and need our disposable income for tiny necessities!

Finally I found a solution! I was super excited to find a way to date my husband again, while abiding by my grown-up dating rules! 

My solution? Twelve, ready made date nights in a bag! These little gems are convenient, portable, and a great way to sneak in a little quality time with the one you love. My goal was to spend at least one night a month devoting time to dating one another again, hence the twelve bags. It was so much fun brainstorming ideas and even more fun spending quality time with my guy! I can't wait to share 4 of our favorite date night bags with you!

Date Night #1: Old-school Game Night
G.I. Joe and I are the proud owners of a "vintage" Nintendo! We love this console and playing games that we grew up mastering. To say that we are a little competitive is a huge understatement. I decided to combine our love for this game system with our love for one another and the result was our first at home date night! I had so much fun gathering things for this date night bag. I was able to pick up some "vintage" candy at our local Dollar Tree including Pop-Rocks, candy filled wax bottles, and Smarties (if you remember from an earlier post, G.I. Joe is a sugar FIEND!). I decided to label the bag with a cute and flirty description and some clip art from our favorite childhood game! The outside of the bag reads:

"Time to embrace the nerds within!!!! It's time to get our Old School game on! Tonight you will enjoy old school candy, and getting your butt kicked at some classic Mario fun!!! Here's the challenge though, NO level warping! Whoever gets the farthest before meeting their demise wins eternal bragging rights, and maybe a special treat at the end ; )"

 This date is perfect for after E has gone to bed on a night that we have some down time together! I can't wait to smear him with my mad Mario skills!!!

Date Night #2: Light's Out!

Like many people from our generation, we are slightly addicted to technology. Even in our spare time we are often competing with phones, TV, iPads, or the xbox for attention! I decided to create a "Light's Out" date night. The thought behind this date night was to recapture the feverish excitement that came when we were little and the power went out. I picked up some classic games at the Dollar Tree ( really, I should own stock) like Checkers, Old Maid, Crazy 8's, and Go Fish. I also threw in a couple packs of glow sticks for fun! Just as before, I created a little description of the date on the outside of the bag. This one reads:

"Let's spend the evening pretending the power's out! No electronics; no iPods, iPads, no cell phones, video game consoles, and no lights!!! Time to enjoy fun with glow sticks, candles, card games, and anything else we might think of to occupy our time in the dark!"

I can't wait to hang out with my hubby, no interruptions, playing games, and enjoying each other's company in the comfort of our own home! This date is sure to be one of my favorites!

Date Night #3: I Scream for Ice Cream

I am a Food Network junkie. I'm basically obsessed! So the inspiration for this date came after watching countless episodes of "Chopped" and "Iron Chef!" I decided our third date would be an ice cream sundae challenge! Yum! For this date I simply picked up some cute sprinkles and a new ice cream scoop from, you guessed it, the Dollar Tree : ) By creating a few simple rules this date went from ordinary to extraordinary! This date is yet another at home date that would be fun to tackle one evening after E has settled in for the night or even fun to include him in! The bag for this date night reads: 

"Time to create our own delicious frozen creations! Using only the items we have in hand, create a one of a kind ice-cream sundae! Your recipe must include: one wacky/non-traditional topping, one traditional ice cream topping, and one cooked ingredient. Afterwards, let's take turns sampling each other's wacky and wonderful treats."

Although I must admit I am a little scared to sample G.I. Joe's creation, I cannot wait to spend time competing and creating sweet treats and sweet memories together!

Date Night #4: Drive-in Movie Night

I love the idea of a drive in movie! The only problem is that drive in movie theaters are few and far far between! So I decided to come up with a drive in date option that we could use right in our own back yard, take down to our local park, or try out a new destination. This is a simple, inexpensive date idea that will make a great memory for your entire family! In the bag I simply included some movie time snacks and an iTunes gift card! The idea is that we'll pack a picnic, bring along our snacks, and iPad and enjoy a movie. See, with the iTunes gift card I plan on purchasing a family friendly movie for download, making it ours to own even when wifi  is not available! Yay for a DIY mobile movie theater!

I hope these date night bags have inspired you to find ways to enjoy your significant other even in a world full of laundry and responsibility! Enjoy brainstorming ideas together or surprise your loved one with a care package full of date night ideas like I did for G.I. Joe. The date in a bag options are limitless and the memories you'll make together or as a family are absolutely priceless! I hope you had a productive day and found some time to make it on a Monday! 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stock-Up Sunday: Let's get CROCK-in!!!

To say that I love my crockpot might just be an understatement. I mean, if the world were to breakout in a zombie apocalypse, no lies, I would bring my crockpot! That little contraption makes dinner MIRACLES! 
Lately I've been relying on my crockpot to whip up delicious dishes that can double, or even triple the items on my dinner list for the month! My new favorite crockpot miracle recipe is for an unbelievably simple, yet delicious, pulled buffalo chicken! This recipe is so versatile that I make one batch and spread it's buffalo-y goodness across three different recipes! I am so excited to be sharing with you one of my favorite ways to make the most of your time and allow you to "stock-up" your freezer with this awesome 3 in 1 recipe!

Not only is this recipe delicious, it's also budget friendly. With 3 simple, low cost ingredients this is sure to make your family's " hit-list!" For this recipe you need your favorite buffalo wing sauce. I am not partial to any one particular brand and usually opt for the most " budget friendly" option. Today I picked up this Sweet Baby Ray's Buffalo Wing Sauce and Glaze at our commissary for $1.99. You are also going to need a packet of dry ranch dressing mix. I picked up this packet for a mere $0.99! And of course, it wouldn't be buffalo chicken without the chicken. For this 3 in 1 recipe I used three large chicken breasts that totaled around $3.11 when purchased in bulk. In total we ended up spending just $6.09 for this delicious recipe, making it just $2.03 per meal!

Now, are you ready for this?! To whip up this delicious recipe you simply combine your buffalo sauce and ranch seasoning together in the crockpot. Once you've combined the two, simply add your chicken breasts to the sauce mixture and coat well. If you're using fresh, not frozen, chicken breasts simply cook on low for about 2 hours ( more or less depending on your crockpot). If you are using frozen chicken breasts, cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Once your chicken is cooked through, remove each breast from the crockpot and shred, I like to use two forks. Once the chicken is shred to your liking, add the chicken back to the buffalo ranch mixture in the crockpot. 

Continue to cook the shredded chicken mixture for 20-30 minutes on low. This will allow the chicken to absorb most of the delicious buffalo flavor. 

Tonight I plan to serve this pulled buffalo chicken on top of a King's Hawaiian Roll as sliders, served with a side of fries, and steamed veggies. Dinner number one....check!

Now for dinners 2 and 3!! Cool the remaining chicken mixture completely. Once cool, divide the chicken mixture evenly among 2 ziplock freezer bags. For organization's sake, I label my bags with the name of the recipe I plan to use the pulled buffalo chicken in. I also label the bags with the additional ingredients each recipe requires. I then "flat freeze" the individual baggies until I'm ready dinner 2 and 3.

For dinner #2, I plan to whip up a quick and easy Buffalo Chicken Pizza! This meal simply takes minutes to prepare since the time consuming part has already been done! Thaw the pulled buffalo chicken in the refrigerator several hours prior to dinner. Then whip up an easy pizza dough recipe like this one or you could even pick up a pre-made pizza shell at your local grocery store. Top the dough of your choice with the thawed buffalo chicken, mozzarella cheese, and some crispy bacon bits. Then bake in a 450 degree oven for  15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly! This is a great weekend treat or an easy weeknight indulgence that'll make you and your wallet happy that you stayed in instead of ordering takeout!

For dinner #3, I'm going to use this spicy pulled buffalo chicken to top my favorite loaded buffalo potato skin casserole! Just as with dinner 2, thaw the frozen chicken in the fridge several hours prior to dinner. Then simply wash and cube 2 large potatoes with their peels on. Then toss cubed potatoes in a mixture of wing sauce, garlic powder, olive oil, salt, and pepper (I never measure, I just toss and taste until I get it the way I like it!). Put coated potatoes in a greased glass baking dish and bake in a 500 degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Once potatoes are crispy and brown, top with our pulled buffalo chicken, a mixture of shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, and crispy bacon bits. Return to oven and cook until cheese is melted and chicken is reheated through. This is really delicious served with a side of Bleu cheese or ranch dressing and topped with fresh chopped green onions! Yummy!

This pulled buffalo chicken recipe is so simple, delicious, and versatile that your options are limitless.  This recipe freezes well and is a great addition to many recipes! If you're not a fan of my dinner options, some other ideas for this recipe could include, and are certainly not limited to:

  • Mac and cheese
  • Buffalo chicken dip
  • Nachos
  • Tacos
  • Buffalo chicken salad
  • Or eat it by the spoonful : )
I hope that this Sunday treated you well! Maybe you spent time stocking your freezer like me or stocking up your love tank with family and friends. Either way I hope you start off your week full and fed with all things that make you happy!