A Few Great Double Date Ideas!

Posted 11-20-2016 at 12:38 AM by Jessica

Man helping girl to stand on the ice rink

It’s so important to get out on dates with your significant other, and it’s always great to spend some time with friends, too, so why not combine them and go on a double date?

My husband and I love double or triple dates. It’s so fun to get together with friends and have a larger group to chat with. Since I’m always trying to come up with creative ideas for activities to do with our friends, I’ve decided to put together a list of what we’ve done or what sounds like fun in order to help out any of you also looking for some new ideas!

-Ice Skating

-Dinner and a movie

-Pottery or art class

-Cooking class

-Game night

-Theme park trip

-Bowling

-Golfing

-Trivia night

-Sports game

-Garage sale shopping

-Museum

-Aquarium

 

Honestly, the list could go on and on, but I’m sure you’re tired of scrolling by now. ;) Try a couple of these out and get creative with some other ideas; there are so many great options for activities on websites like Groupon or Living Social, too. And that way you can save some money on a date that you may not have thought of on your own!

What are some of your favorite group date ideas?

Diaper Swapers

The Creamiest Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Posted 11-17-2016 at 12:38 AM by Jessica

mashed potato

 

I’m always so startled when holidays creep up on me. (Where did the 4th of July come from? How is it already Halloween?!) But this Thanksgiving has really snuck up on me fast. I still can’t believe that it’s not September so how are we already nearing the end of November?

I’m afraid that time has somehow sped up in the past couple of years. It feels like New Years Day was just a little while ago, and I still catch myself writing out 2015, so I really have no idea how I’m going to get in the ‘2017 mode’ in the next month and a half.

Anyways, enough about my distorted sense of time. Let’s talk potatoes.

Mashed potatoes are my most favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner, and this one recipe is the best that I have tried. It’s super simple and really creamy. The cream cheese makes these potatoes so smooth and flavorful, you’ve got to try it!

Ingredients

5 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 cup half and half (or whole milk)

16 ounces plain cream cheese, cut into pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

Boil the potatoes until they become fork-tender, about 15 minutes

Drain and then move to a very large bowl and mix briefly on a low setting with half and half and the cream cheese until incorporated

Add seasonings to taste

 

Done! In hardly any time at all you will have the creamiest, tastiest mashed potatoes ever. Go ahead and make them for dinner tonight , and then sign up for mashed potato duty at your Thanksgiving dinner this year; all of your family members and friends will LOVE this recipe, and you’ll love how simple it is.

Let me know what you think of this recipe in the comments!

 

I’ve Been Cooking Rice Wrong For Years! + A Mexican Rice Recipe

Posted 11-14-2016 at 11:57 PM by Jessica

Rice with tomatoes and onions

 

I have always had an issue with cooking rice. No matter how I seemed to do it, even adding more water than the package called for, I always ended up having rice that was slightly under cooked. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was to constantly end up with rice that had a crunch to it time and time again.

And then my husband caught my mistake.
He walked up to the pot of rice and water that I had on the stove yesterday and asked why I had the heat on high. I responded smartly that that was just what you do. He immediately turned the heat down to low and laughed at me, saying that no, that wasn’t what you’re supposed to do. By keeping the heat up so high all I was doing was evaporating the water too fast, leaving less water to soak into the rice, and in turn, keeping it from fully cooking.
Brilliant. (See it’s moments like those that reinforce why I keep him around. Ha!)
I have been cooking rice wrong for years! For some reason I figured that keeping the heat on high would keep the water boiling, therefore cooking the rice faster. I didn’t even think about the fact that the measured out amount of water would decrease rapidly on a high heat.
How’s that for someone that spent most of her life thinking she’d be a biology major? Good thing I switched fields.
Anyways, I do have a recipe for you. I just wanted to rant for a bit about rice cooking and how I just learned how to do it properly thanks to my husband. Because I opened up with that lovely story I don’t think that I have very much credibility in terms of rice right now, but this is not my rice recipe (I got it from a good friend) so you can trust it. I promise it’s delicious and oh-so-easy!

Mexican Rice

Ingredients 
2 cups Jasmine Rice
4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil (optional)
1/4 cup Tomato Bullion Powder
Directions
Put rice, water, oil and tomato powder into a pan. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid to stir! (This was another mistake of mine… I’m so impatient.) After about 15 minutes remove from heat and let steam in the pot for another additional 10 minutes, or until rice is tender. Fluff with a fork and serve!
There are a few different variations on this recipe, including frying the rice in some oil beforehand or adding tomato paste, but I really like this one because it is so simple, and pretty hard to mess up. Unless you’re me and you don’t understand evaporation.
Let me know if you like it! And comment if you have any variations for this rice that you like to cook, I’d love to hear more recipes.

How to Use Vinegar and Baking Soda to Unclog Drains

Posted 11-12-2016 at 11:55 PM by Jessica

Baking soda with vinegar, natural mix for effective house cleaning.

 

I didn’t realize just how controversial the baking soda and vinegar method for cleaning drains was until I started in on doing some research on it. It seems that the age-old solution for fixing a clog is something that causes some debate. Some believe that the baking soda and vinegar doesn’t do anything, while others believe that it does everything. I actually found the outraged comments on a few different blogs to be quite amusing, and they inspired me to try out the method myself. Well, the comments and partly the fact that one bathroom sink hasn’t been draining for about a month now inspired me…

The trick is the hot water. And that is what I think is left out of some instructions, which leads to negative results. So make sure that you have a pot of boiling hot water ready to go, and hopefully it will work for you!

Lets unplug some drains!

1. Pour a pot of boiling hot water into your drain

2. Mix together a solution of one cup baking soda and one cup of vinegar

3. Pour that mixture into the drain

4. Shut the drain plug and wait about 5 to 10 minutes

5. Finish up with another pot of hot water

 

As long as there isn’t some object stuck in your drain, this method should do the trick! The bubbles from the baking soda and vinegar should loosen up the gunk in the drain, and the hot water should take care of minimizing the grease and wash it all out.

Thankfully, this worked for me, so I can now use that sink again, woo hoo!

Let me know if you’ve used this method with any success, I’d love to hear about it and any variations you may have.

 

 

5 Minute Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Posted 11-10-2016 at 11:54 PM by Jessica

Gourmet traditional Italian pesto in glass jar with wooden spoon. Basil, nuts, olive oil and parmesan recipe. Vintage table background.

 

 

 

Okay, so you have less than 10 minutes to get dinner on the table and your kids do not want a frozen TV dinner or a pb&j. Cereal is not an option and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese will take too long.

Stop panicking, I have a solution for you: Pesto Gnocchi.

Now I’m sure you’re thinking one of two things. Either “what is gnocchi?” or “how on earth do I make it in 5 minutes?”

For the first question, gnocchi is a type of soft dough dumpling usually made from potato. I’m not sure if it officially qualifies as a type of pasta, but it tastes like pasta, and is usually found in the pasta section in a vacuum sealed package. It is basically heaven on earth. It can be paired with marinara, pesto, alfredo, or just some butter and salt.

Second question. In addition to being so dang delicious, gnocchi is also my favorite because it cooks in literally 2-3 minutes. All you have to do is bring your water to a boil and plop them in, then let them boil for about 2-3 minutes (or until they all float to the top). Because you know exactly when they’re done based on whether they’re floating or not, it’s really a fool-proof dinner.

Now for the pesto. If I was asking you to blend up the basil and pine nuts I’m sure that the pesto sauce might taste fresher and better than the kind I like to make from a seasoning packet, but I guarantee you it would take longer than 5 minutes to get it all made. The kids are screaming, everyone’s hungry, you have places to be.

You do not have time to deal with pine nuts right now.

You need a Knorr Creamy Pesto Packet paired with your gnocchi. The Knorr brand is my favorite, and I like the creamy type better than the original, but any type works!


 

 

Ingredients:

Gnocchi

Pesto Packet

Milk

Olive Oil

(amount of each depends on the pesto packet brand and how many servings you’re going for)

Directions:

Cook the gnocchi as instructed on package, usually you boil the water and add the gnocchi.

Let the yummy little dumplings boil for about 2-3 minutes or until they float to the top.

Drain the gnocchi and set aside.

While the gnocchi is cooking follow the instructions on the pesto packet. Most often you just whisk together the pesto powder with the milk and oil and let it come to a boil.

After it has boiled remove it from the heat and pour the sauce over the drained and cooked gnocchi.


 

Seriously, that is all there is to it! Just some boiling and mixing and viola! Dinner is served. Your family will think that you are an Italian Chef with this fancy dish that is sort of hard to pronounce, and you can just toss out the packets and be excited that it only took a couple minutes from start to finish!

Next time you head to the store make sure to stock up on some packages of gnocchi and a bunch of those pesto packets, and you’ll always be ready for a last-minute but still delicious dinner.

 

Let me know how you liked it!

Need A Fun Science Experiment? Dye Flowers!

Posted 11-7-2016 at 11:53 PM by Jessica

Crazy scientist. Young boy performing experiments

 

Science experiments are the best! Giving kids a fun hands-on project involving science is a great way to foster a love for science early. If they can have the chance to have fun science interactions they’re more likely to view it positively and perform better in that subject! And who knows, the fun experiments they do as kids may spark an interest and inspire them to go into a science field later on!

This experiment is so easy you’re going to love it.

Supplies:

White Flowers, (carnations, daisies, roses… they all work!)

Clear drinking glasses,

Food coloring dye,

Water

Easiest Instructions Ever:

Fill up each glass with water and add a few drops of food coloring, enough to dye the water a deep and bright color.

Stick one flower into each glass of colored water, and watch them over the course of a couple days. It wont take long at all for you to see the flowers change to the color in the glass.

Now, if you’d like to take this experiment up a notch, try dying one flower with two colors! Simply use a knife to split the stem in half, and place each half into a different color.

Ask your kids to come up with a hypothesis for what will happen to the flower when you do the two colors. Will the whole flower turn to be a mix of the two colors (for example, if the two colors are blue and red, will the flower turn purple?) or will the colors be split exactly down the middle?

Explain to your kids that water is taken up through the stem of the flower and distributed into the petals of the flowers! By dying the water you are able to see exactly how long it takes for the water to travel, and where it travels to! (That’s a good enough explanation for younger kids, though you can always look up more information for a more detailed discussion with your older or more curious kiddos.)

Let me know what happens in the comments! I’m excited to hear about your flower-dying!

Leftover Halloween Candy Cookies!

Posted 11-5-2016 at 11:48 PM by Jessica

 

candies

So your kids got a great haul this Halloween, and you’re all up to your ears in candy? You could of course eat all of the candy with them, but after a while the Snickers gets a little boring. You can easily breathe some new life into the stash of chocolate candies if you use this recipe from Buzzfeed though!

All you do is create a simple cookie bar recipe and add in the candies you want! I personally think that Twix, Snickers, peanut butter cups and M&Ms work best. Though you can’t go wrong with a little Three Musketeers or Crunch Bar thrown in there, too! Bring on all the leftover candy!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 cups assorted candy, chopped

PREPARATION

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC.
2. Chop your Halloween candy into bite-size pieces.
3. In a large bowl, mix sugars and melted butter, whisk until mix turns lighter (around 8 minutes).
4. Mix in eggs and vanilla, then salt and flour until completely blended.
5. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
6. Allow to cool.
7. Cut into squares.
8. Enjoy!

Do you have any other recipes that utilize leftover assorted chocolates from Trick-or-Treating? Share them in the comments!

7 Cheap Autumn Date Ideas!

Posted 11-3-2016 at 11:44 PM by Jessica
autumn kiss, young loving couple in the park with falling leaves
Pumpkin Patch and Carving: What is Fall without visiting a pumpkin patch? Grab your guy or gal and go pick out a pumpkin that you can carve together! Roast the seeds for a yummy snack afterwards.
Picnic at the Park: The leaves are changing colors and most parks are at their most beautiful state so take your dinner to the park instead of eating at your dining table, or meet up during your lunch break.
Haunted House: For those of you that can stomach having creepily costumed people jump out at every corner, head to a haunted house! This is an especially fun group date because there is obviously safety in numbers.
Caramel Apples: There are lots of simple recipes out there, or you can always try out something gourmet if you’re feeling up to it. Make sure that you’ve got a good sized work space and lots of candy toppings and you’re set for a sweet date.
Fall Festival: There are lots of festivals around this time of year, and there are lots of local family-owned ones that are relatively inexpensive as well! Whether it’s just a few food trucks and some games or a full corn maze it’s lots of fun to get outside and enjoy the chilly weather.
Football Game: It’s Football season! Take advantage of that by heading to a game in your area. It doesn’t have to be an NFL game to be fun; check out the times that your local high school is playing and head over there!
Scary Movie: My idea of a scary movie would probably be the Haunted Mansion, ha! So I’m all for popping up some popcorn and snuggling up to watch Eddie Murphy. If you’re braver than me turn on a legitimate horror movie and curl up on the couch together!
These are just a handful of ideas for Fall dates, do you have any that you love? Let us know in the comments!

What To Do With All That Halloween Candy

Posted 11-1-2016 at 11:46 PM by Jessica

child halloween pumpkin bucket spilling candy

Instead of letting your kids go crazy and give themselves some serious stomach aches and cavities, you can try out a few of these ideas to limit the candy consumption and have a little fun in the process!

1. Bake with it

Crush up the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and add it to a brownie mix. Blend some Snickers into a Milkshake. Choose a few candies to make a trail mix with nuts and pretzels. Use the M&Ms to make M&M cookies!

2. Teach with it

Math is almost always easier if you’re using counters, so instead of the standard blocks you use, try using candies instead. It can help make a division problem simpler, and put the candy to good use.

3. “Buy” it from your kids

Let them trade in the candy for fun privileges or small items. You can set up a system so that each half or whole pound can equal a fun trip or a small item of their choice.

4. Donate it

Take the candy to your local homeless shelter to share with the kids there that most likely didn’t get the chance to trick-or-treat. Or you can always mail the non-perishable and non-meltable candies out to some of our troops! There are lots of people out there in need, and donating the candy will fill your child with pride and warmth.

 

These are just a few of the many ideas that can be utilized to get rid of some of that extra candy. Do you have any good ideas for the leftover candies?

 

Host an Easy Halloween Dinner this Year!

Posted 10-30-2016 at 06:40 AM by Jessica

Halloween snack

You may be thinking I’m crazy for even mentioning another holiday that could require a dinner. You’ve already got Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner to worry about, after all. But honestly, this will be the easiest of them all. No need to invite anyone but your immediate family (unless you want to!) and you don’t need much food, just enough for your standard dinner with possibly a few fun twists on it, too! (If you don’t feel like cooking you can always order a pizza and arrange the olives or pepperoni’s into a jack-o-lantern face if you want something super simple but still festive!)

It doesn’t require a whole lot of extra work; simply relocating a few of the decorations you already have to the table and adding a spooky twist on a few of the foods is enough to make the dinner unique and fun! Here are 3 easy tips to making a Halloween dinner your family will love.

  1. Turn off the lights and light a few candles. Eating in the flickering candle light is sure to set a spooky mood!
  2. Decorate the table. Even if it’s just with a few decorations you already have! Place a pumpkin or two in between the candles and you’re set! Halloween paper plates can easily fill in for decor, and just changing the table cloth can make a huge difference.
  3. Halloween-ify your food! Simply googling or pinteresting (that should be a verb nowadays, don’t you think?) ‘Halloween Food’ will leave you with so many ideas you’ll be tempted to make a whole buffet!

It’s really that simple! Just a little decor to change the atmosphere and some fun food will make your Halloween dinner a tradition that your family will look forward to each and every year!