Posted 12-26-2016 at 11:55 PM by Jessica
I love baking cookies all throughout the year, especially in December as Christmas rolls around. Unfortunately I have been without my mixer for the past month, so I’ve only made one batch of cookies, and those cookies did not turn out. I tried my recipe for my favorite peanut butter cookies, and thought that I’d probably be able to mix the dough by hand vigorously enough to not need a mixer, but I was wrong. I melted the peanut butter in order to keep the dough from being too thick so it would be easier to mix, but then the dough was too runny… Anyways, the moral of the story at that point was that until I got my mixer back I would not be able to bake any more cookies.
But then I ran across this recipe I’m sharing with you today. A no-mixer chocolate chip cookie! When looking through a notebook of my grandma’s favorite recipes I saw “no-mixer” cookie recipe and flipped out with excitement. So if you’re without a mixer, or simply want to do things the old-fashioned way, you’ve got to try this one out. It’s so simple and delicious I’m really not sure why I’ve ever made cookies any other way.
2½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
First, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium sized bowl.
In a large bowl whisk the brown and white sugar until they’re incorporated and then add the melted butter and whisk really well. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla, whisking in between.
Add the dry ingredients to the sugary buttery egg mixture (yum), and stir them so they’re totally combined. Set that whisk aside; a spatula or large spoon will work best for this. Mix in the chocolate chips, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes. (If you’d like, scoop the dough into balls and then refrigerate them.)
While the dough is getting chilled preheat your oven to 375ºF.
If the dough hasn’t already been scooped into balls do that after it has chilled for 10 minutes, and bake for 10-12 minutes, watching them carefully until they turn golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet for about a minute, and then carefully transfer them to a plate to finish cooling.
Posted 12-25-2016 at 11:54 PM by Jessica
Hot chocolate is the best. And it’s an inexpensive drink that just about everyone loves! That’s why having a hot cocoa bar set up at your next holiday or winter party is a must. You can get a really good spread going for not much money at all, and everyone is guaranteed to love it.
First, you need hot chocolate. Make up a big batch and then either store it in large bowls with ladles, or put your crock-pot to use so that it stays hot!
Secondly, you need a pretty table. Lay out a table cloth and bring out some decorative or colorful bowls to fill with the candies! You’ll also need mugs. If you have enough ceramic ones, go for it! Or you can always buy a package of disposable coffee cups, too.
And most importantly, you need the toppings/mix-ins!
Chocolate and caramel are a must. (I’ve also seen Italian soda syrups used before as well!)
Cinnamon and nutmeg. And for those wanting a little kick, a pinch of chili pepper can be added, too.
I prefer the real stuff, whipped up and sitting pretty in a glass bowl with a spoon to scoop it into the mug, but the canned kind works great as well and requires less work.
Crushed Butterfinger, Kit Kat and Snickers. Chocolate chips are fantastic, and Andes Mints are always the favorite. Crush up some peppermint candy canes, and don’t forget the marshmallows and sprinkles.
There you go! Choose a few of those options and set out a plate or two of cookies and you’re all set!
Anything I missed? What do you love to add to your hot chocolate?
Posted 12-23-2016 at 11:53 PM by Jessica
The Christmas season is one of the most chaotic times of the year. Everyone’s running around trying to get their shopping done, houses clean for guests, and usually finishing up extra work so they can take time off. For the past few years I’ve hardly had the chance to get into the Christmas Spirit because I’ve been too busy. Last year I decided to do a few random acts of kindness during the Christmas Season and I absolutely loved it! Not only were they simple and easy to do, but it just warms your heart when you’re helping others. Even if it’s just putting a smile on their face for a few seconds.
Get your kids involved in this! Too often kids think of the Christmas season soley as the time when Santa brings them lots of fun presents. While that’s of course so much fun, it’s important that they also understand that there is so much more to Christmas than the gifts. It’s also about showing love and kindness to everyone!
Here are just a few ideas that I have ran across online:
Leave a dollar taped with a simple note in the kids toy section of the dollar store so that the next little kid passing by can pick out a toy
Tape a few quarters to a vending machine
Pay for a family’s meal when you go to a restaurant or pay for the people behind you at the ice cream shop
Pass out candy canes
Shovel an elderly neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk
Pack up old toys to donate to a homeless shelter or goodwill
Find a Secret Santa opportunity and shop for a child in need
Have your kids save up some money to donate to a charity of their choice
Leave nice notes on post-its in a restroom or dressing room on the mirrors
Leave a candy bar and note for the mailman/woman in your mailbox
Give the UPS or FedEx delivery person some cookies and hot cocoa to go
Make homeless care packages to pass out, even if they simply include gloves and granola bars
Volunteer at an animal shelter
It doesn’t take much to bring a smile to someone’s face and make them feel special even for just a moment. Of course acts of kindness should be done all throughout the year, but they can be especially meaningful during the Christmas season for those who are struggling. These are just a handful of ideas compared to the hundreds of kind little acts that can be done. Pick a couple with your family and see just how quickly the Christmas season gets that much more magical.
Posted 12-22-2016 at 11:53 PM by Jessica
Sometimes it seems like kids get more candy at Christmas than Halloween! Though candy canes are always so fun to get in stockings, there are so many non-candy ideas that your kids will love even more, and you won’t have to break the bank to fill it up.
An apple and/or orange (for some reason, kids get so much more excited about fruit if they find it in their stocking)
Notepad and pen
$5 gift card
Toothbrush (this was always a staple in our stockings, and we loved it!)
Small coloring book (or free printed coloring pages)
Playing cards (UNO, Go Fish, Pokemon…)
Mini Play Dough
Small stuffed animal (Tsum Tsums would be a big hit!)
Chapstick or lip gloss
Hot Wheels cars
The stocking was always the first thing that we got to open Christmas morning. We’d dig through it pulling out each individual item one by one, getting excited even about the toothbrush that Santa picked out for us.
Stockings don’t have to have expensive things in them for them to be so much fun for the kids. As I mentioned before, one of our favorite things to see was the apple and orange, not because we didn’t have access to those already, but because it was a tradition and something we could always look forward to. As you pick out gifts for their stockings try to choose one or two things that are easy to get a hold of and include them in their stockings each year, they’ll be thrilled!
What did you used to get excited about seeing in your stocking? And what do you make sure to always have in your kids’ stocking these years?
Posted 12-21-2016 at 01:03 AM by Jessica
Being able to spell does not come easily to most. It takes lots of practice and requires self confidence as well. If your child is having a hard time with their spelling there are quite a few methods you can help them use to improve.
Make sure their pronunciation is correct.
Kids will often spell the word the way that they pronounce it, so make sure that they are speaking the word correctly; it can help them make sure they aren’t accidentally using an ‘e’ instead of an ‘a.’ Of course, the English language is not an easy one, and there are lots of our words that don’t always sound the same as they’re written, so this doesn’t always help.
Read, write, speak, spell…
The mind can form memories more easily if multiple brain processes are used. If your child only ever writes out the words, he or she won’t retain the memory of how it is spelled as easily than if they are writing it, speaking it, and spelling it out loud as well.
Play games with the words.
Crossword puzzles, scrabble, word searches… And that’s just a few of the many that are out there. You can even cut up each word into it’s individual letters and race each other to put the words back together. Or make a game of spelling card memory. Type or write each word onto two pieces of paper and play a game of memory! Adding a little fun and competition always seems to help.
Use spelling boats when writing.
Yep, that’s it! Then outline the words so that you’re drawing a triangle shape and add a little round boat to the bottom to complete the sailboat. Taking the word one letter at a time and utilizing repetition can be really beneficial with helping your kiddo to really slow down and focus on the order of the letter in that word.
Get rid of the boring pencil.
Break out the finger paints! Or, let them use the computer to type into a word document with a big colorful font. Just mixing up the medium they use can make it more engaging.
Take a video of them spelling out the word. Bonus points if they put on a silly costume while doing it.
Let them teach others.
Do they have a sibling they can teach the word to? Or even a pet? Teaching someone else is one of the best methods for solidifying the information, so if they can explain to their goldfish or sister that “airplane” is spelled “a-i-r-p-l-a-n-e” they’re more likely to remember it much better come spelling test time.
Every child learns very differently. Some kids just need a more visual approach in order to really get the words down. Others need to say it out loud or play a game to make it interesting enough for them to fully engage. Play around with a few of these techniques and you’re sure to find something that helps your child gain the confidence and skills he or she needs to perform better on their next spelling test.
Posted 12-18-2016 at 12:52 AM by Jessica
It seems like every kids’ Christmas movie shows a Christmas tree with a cranberry garland, so I grew up thinking that cranberry garlands were absolutely essential to each Christmas tree. The fun of making them as a child has extended into adulthood as I still like to chill on the couch with a Christmas movie stringing cranberries together. If you haven’t made one before, you’ve definitely got to try it. It’s so easy, and it’s the perfect craft for your kids to join you in.
All you need:
Cranberries (3 bags will make about 12 feet of garland)
String (any color works as it will be covered by the cranberries)
Needles (stronger needles work better as you’re pushing them through some tough cranberries. If you have younger kids that want to help they can always use children’s plastic needles!)
This is pretty simple, thread about 6 feet of string through your needle and double it up so that the ends touch and you have a length of 3 feet. tie a knot into the ends so that the cranberries won’t fall off, and start threading the cranberries onto the string! (Make sure you don’t thread the mushy cranberries; set those aside and only use the firm ones. After you fill up the first stretch make another and tie them all together to create a long garland that you can wrap around your Christmas tree.
That’s seriously it. This is such an easy craft, your kids will love it! And it’s perfect for teaching early motor skills, too.
Let me know how you like it! I know lots of people have added popcorn to their garlands as well, but I’ve never done it. I’ll have to give it a try this year and share how it goes!
Posted 12-18-2016 at 12:51 AM by Jessica
Salsa Verde is so great because it is so versatile! It can be used as a salsa for dipping tortilla chips in, it can be used to make enchiladas, you can smother a burrito in it or you can drizzle it over a tostada. Whatever you choose to do with it you’re sure to have a delicious dish.
I’ve always just bought the canned stuff thinking that making up a homemade batch would be too much work, but I am happy to say that making homemade Salsa Verde is actually really easy because basically all you need to do is prepare the ingredients, boil them for a bit, and then put them into a blender! Sure, simply opening a can of the stuff is easier, but this isn’t that much more difficult to make it homemade and it’s totally fresh with no weird preservatives.
- 1 pound tomatillos, husked and washed
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 jalepeno pepper minced (add another if you want a hotter salsa)
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups water
Place all of the ingredients including the water into a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 10 minutes, just until the tomatillos soften. Carefully pour about 1/4 or 1/3 of the mixture at a time into your blender and puree until smooth so that you don’t overwhelm your blender and make a big mess.
As I mentioned, use the salsa to dip chips into or make a nice big batch of enchiladas with it! The options are endless.
What do you prefer to use salsa for? Let me know what you think about this recipe in the comments!
Posted 12-16-2016 at 12:49 AM by Jessica
I am the worst at drinking water. If I drink one full glass a day I call that good. Which isn’t good, that’s actually quite awful. I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting more headaches lately, which I know can definitely come from being dehydrated, so I’ve made it my goal to get drinking more water! Here are 4 of the tips that really helped me a lot with increasing my water intake.
1. Flavor it. I know some people don’t like those Crystal Light flavoring packets, but honestly there are so many different brands and flavors of water enhancers out there you’re bound to find something that you will like. My personal favorite is the MiO brand. They even have some with some caffeine for an energy boost!
2. Get a large water bottle. I really like this HydroFlask because it keeps my water cold (I can’t get myself to drink room temperature water, so the low temperature helps so much!) and it holds a lot, so I don’t have to refill it as often throughout the day.
3. Track it. I get a post it note and stick it to my water bottle and keep a tally of how many bottles I have finished. I’m not sure why, but adding a tally mark is a huge motivator for me to finish each water bottle.
4. Take it everywhere. This should be a no brainer, but make sure that you always have the bottle easily accessible. I used to just keep one in the fridge so that it would stay cold, but that led to me forgetting about it. Now I make sure to take it with me everywhere since I have a bottle that keeps the water cold.
There you go! It’s not rocket science to coax yourself into staying hydrated, but it does take some time to form the habits.
Let me know what tips you like best, and what you personally do to make sure you’re getting enough water!
Posted 12-13-2016 at 12:38 AM by Jessica
As soon as the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and green bean casserole are put away I start dragging my Christmas tree out of storage. Sometimes I’m tired enough from a day of cooking and socializing that I wait until the next night, and sometimes I’m motivated enough to get it all set out that night. Maybe not fully decorated, but at least piled up in the corner so that I can start feeling that Christmas Spirit emulate through the house.
Christmas is my favorite holiday by a long shot and I absolutely love getting my tree decorated and lit up as soon as my second favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, has come to a delicious end. There is just something so magical about a sparkly tree all set up in the living room, shining bright and filling the whole room with happiness. Sorry, I just got super cheesy there, but I can’t help it. Christmas trees are just my favorite.
I have to say, I have never had the oodles of money required to buy all of the fancy glass ornaments or the yards and yards of silky ribbon that make other people’s trees look so professional. But even on my tight Christmas decor budget each year, I still manage to make my tree look pretty full and special. Let me share a few tips for how I do it:
1. Buy ornaments after Christmas.
As soon as the holiday ends stores drop the prices of their Christmas decorations by a lot. How does 75% off sound? Take advantage of this and stock up for your tree next year by buying your ornaments and other decorations now. You’ll end up scoring great deals on fancy ornaments that you may not normally be able to afford.
2. Buy ornaments at the Dollar Store.
I’m always so thrilled with the ornaments the Dollar Store carries each year. You can usually get a set of two really pretty ornaments for a dollar, so I like to grab a bunch.
3. Use non-Christmas decor.
Usually if an item is Christmas-themed it is priced a lot higher. Instead of getting the red ribbon in the Christmas section, grab some from the craft aisle or try to find a discounted roll in the clearance section. It will work just the same as the holiday brand, but will probably be much cheaper thanks to the ordinary label.
4. Pay attention to sales.
This is a no-brainer, but honestly so many sales can go by without you being aware and you can miss out on some great deals!
Now go on and get to trimming that tree!
And let us know what tips you use to decorate your Christmas tree on a budget in the comments.
Posted 12-11-2016 at 12:37 AM by Jessica
Sorry, as good as these sound and as yummy as they’ll smell baking in your oven, they’re meant for your dogs! (Though they’re totally human-safe, too! They just probably won’t taste too great thanks to the lack of sugar.)
These are the perfect special treats for your dogs. You know exactly what’s going into them, and there are no impossible-to-pronounce ingredients. And the peanut butter flavor is a huge hit with most dogs.
Side note: I would just like to let you know that as I’m typing this up I’m checking over my shoulder to see if my pups are still asleep. They’re little terrors when they’re awake, so I’ve only got time to write up this recipe when they’re asleep. Let’s see if I can get all the way through this before they wake up. Ready, set, go!
- 2 1/2 cups flour (wheat is best, but if your dog is allergic to wheat flour try coconut flour instead!)
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup dog-safe peanut butter
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 egg
- preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Mix flour, baking powder, and egg in a large bowl. Add the peanut butter, honey and water and stir. The dough will become very stiff and sticky, you may need to knead it a bit with your hands.
- Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes, or just scoop a tablespoon sized amount onto a greased and floured cookie sheet.
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they turn golden brown.
Have you ever made homemade dog treats before? Let me know how your fur babies like these in the comments!