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Random Acts of Kindness Cookie Decorating Party

December 9, 2018

This post is sponsored by Soapbox Influence in partnership with Vanilla MasterCard Gift Cards.  As always, all opinions are my own. I carefully select which sponsored posts to take on with YOU, my awesome readers in mind! I hope this party helps inspire you this holiday season. #VanillaGiftWinnerWonderland #VanillaGift

We frequently purchase gift cards at our local Walmart, including these Vanilla MasterCard Charming Characters Multi-Pack $20 gift cards that I used in the cards (pictured below) for our random acts of kindness. For every Vanilla MasterCard Gift Card purchase until 12/23/18 participants will be entered to win one of over 100 different prizes, including a grand prize of a $10,000 Macy’s shopping spree! To enter, after purchasing your gift card, go to https://www.winner-wonderland.com/ to enter.

Christmastime, and the month of December, really, is a time when adults have plenty of Christmas parties and events to attend, but a little person Christmas party? Well, we decided to tackle that this weekend with a few of our favorite little people and their mommas for a Preschooler Random Acts of Kindness Cookie Decorating Party! If you’re thinking that toddlers and preschoolers decorating Christmas cookies with sprinkles and frosting sounds like a hot mess, then you’re right! It was a bit crazy (as pictured above) but we also had a great time on a cold and snowy Saturday decorating cookies, drinking coffee (the moms) and listening to Christmas music while the kids played.

Here’s a bit more about the party structure and details that make it happen:

-I provided all the supplies so friends could just show up and enjoy themselves! All the supplies were purchased at Walmart, where we do nearly all our grocery shopping these days, and for ease and convenience I used pre-made dough since the focus was really on the cookie decorating! I made around 100+ cut-out cookies and got a variety of toppings, including sprinkles, candies, gum-drops, candy canes, etc. I DID make the frosting from scratch because it’s worth every bit of extra effort. 😉

-Lately Joe and I have been really conscious that we want Ainsley and Collins to grow up thinking about others rather than becoming super self-focused, so when I was approached about partnering with Vanilla MasterCard Gift Cards to find a creative use for gift cards this holiday season, I immediately thought about how they could be used to make someone’s Christmas a bit brighter! Each family who came to the party left with a plate of decorated cookies and a card with a $20 gift card in it to deliver to someone as a random act of Christmas kindness!

-We knew it would be a mess letting littles decorate cookies, so we decided to put down plastic painter’s tarp under the table. It was a great idea because all we had to do was wrap up the tarp after the party and wipe down our table and clean-up was a breeze!

-Let’s be honest: The mom’s ended up decorating a lot of the cookies after the first 15 minutes, when the kids lost interest and started playing with toys, but any excuse to get together and celebrate the season is a win in my book!

-If you want your cookies to look good and cohesive, stick with a color palette. Even cookies decorated by little people can look good when you stick with a color scheme (we did red, green and white) that makes everything look cohesive. Another idea would be blue and white. Or white with gold and silver sprinkles. Or white and red. Plus, it’s easier to plan around, too!

We had such a great time and it was a tradition I would love to continue every year! Plus, knowing that the cookies and gift cards when to brighten someone’s day make it even more special. With so much focus on ourselves and our own loved ones this holiday season, it’s nice to shift the focus to those around us more often.

Madison

Healthy Taco Casserole

September 23, 2018

Happy Sunday, friends! I’m doing a little slow Sunday morning meal prep and planning for my weekly meal planning newsletter and this is one of the recipes that will go out in a bit! If you aren’t signed up yet, each Sunday I send out our family’s meal plan to serve as inspiration for you in your meal planning efforts. It’s nothing fancy, but I hope it’s helpful, and it certainly keeps me on track! You can sign up HERE if you’re interested in getting a meal plan sent to your inbox each week.

I’m always looking for more family-friendly recipes that aren’t terribly difficult to make and are pleasing for little kiddos. This recipe is just that – easy to make, pleasing for nearly everyone, filling yet healthy. If you are looking for a new casserole recipe to add into your rotation this fall as temperatures drop, I highly recommend adding this into your rotation.

This week I divided up the recipe into five lunch containers for Joe’s lunches this week. I’m also including some lettuce and sour cream on the side so he can top this with some traditional taco toppings before eating. While I doubt the chips will stay good and crunchy throughout the week, I’m hopeful it still tastes great!

Healthy Taco Casserole
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium orange, red or yellow sweet pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups hot-cooked brown rice (I like Trader Joe's frozen brown rice bags)
  • 1 cup mild or medium salsa
  • 1½ cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (not the "taco" cheese with seasoning)
  • 1 cup crushed whole grain tortilla chips
  • Lettuce, guacamole, and sour cream for serving, if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the peppers and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until onions are browned and peppers are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, brown ground beef; drain. Return beef to skillet and add in ½ cup water and the taco seasoning mix. Simmer 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in the brown rice and the sauteed peppers and onions, along with the salsa and 1 cup of the cheese.
  4. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining ½ cup of the cheese and the crushed tortilla chips. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve with desired toppings.

 

Korean Beef Bowls

September 16, 2018

I’m always looking for new and easy ways to keep the meals that we make at dinnertime interesting. This is one of the newer meals we’ve been enjoying at our house, first inspired by this recipe from Damn Delicious and then tweaked slightly and adapted by me. That said, the recipe is so easy that once you make it the first time you won’t really need a recipe the next time. It’s simple, easy, and was extremely family-friendly. I was worried that the girls wouldn’t like the different taste but they both were happy to eat this meal – a total mom win!

A few other suggestions for adapting this Korean-inspired beef bowl would be to swap out ground turkey or ground chicken for the beef, or using another base like quinoa or faro in place of the brown rice. Like I said, it’s adaptable and works well any matter of ways! Add this one to your weekly rotation – I promise you won’t regret it!

Korean Beef Bowls
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 4 servings
 
Easy, family-friendly meal that even picky eaters (like my toddler!) will love.
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
  • Hot cooked brown rice and steamed broccoli for serving
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and ginger until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 to 7 minutes or until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add in ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned. Drain; return mixture to skillet. Pour soy sauce mixture over meat and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes more or until heated through.
  3. Spoon rice and broccoli into bowls. Top with the meat mixture and serve immediately.

 

Desk Lunch // Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad

August 19, 2018

If you’re signed up to receive my weekly meal-planning and behind-the-scenes newsletter, then chances are you’ve already heard that I’m on a mission to make Joe’s lunches a little healthier, with more variety and interest each week. I realized that I had been phoning in her lunches for a long time now that life has been busy with littles, and when I don’t prepare lunches in advance, he really doesn’t get the most well-rounded lunches. So each Sunday, I prep and assemble five lunches for Joe’s week to keep things easy for me but healthy, tasty and well-rounded for him.

I’m hoping to share a few more “desk lunch” ideas as we approach the back-to-school season. Some of these ideas will probably transfer into school lunch ideas, while others may be catered toward more adult tastes. My kiddos don’t love pesto all that much, so if I were making this for the girls I would keep most of the ingredients in the recipe but swap the pesto for olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese. The rest of the ingredients in this dish my kiddos love!

This recipe also gets my stamp of approval because it can be made in advance for the entire week, doesn’t require heating in the microwave and is well-rounded and flavorful. I will serve this meal with a side of carrot sticks for Joe as well as a piece of fruit or a Lara Bar for mid-afternoon hunger on those long days that he’s going to HS football practice after work this fall!

Desk Lunch // Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
Author: 
Serves: 5 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) corkscrew pasta, cooked according to package directions, then drained and rinsed in cold water
  • 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped (I used a rotisserie chicken and chopped it up)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. fresh mini mozzarella balls
  • ½ cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
  • 1 jar (8 oz.) pesto
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, chicken breasts, halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, olives and pesto. Stir until well-combined. Spoon into lunch containers and refrigerate until ready to eat.
  2. Note: It's best to slightly under-cook the pasta to prevent it from becoming too soft as it sits in the refrigerator.

 

Family

Meal Planning Resource // Seasonal Meal Planner

August 8, 2018

For those of you following along the last month, you’re well aware that we are on a journey to be more intentional with our meal planning and prepping this fall in hopes of creating a more intentional and less stressful meal time each day. Other benefits include having healthier options on hand for the whole family and saving money at the grocery store. So! When my friend Natasha reached out asking if I would be interested in giving her Seasonal Meal Planner a little test drive and sharing it with you, I said YES.

I’ve been jotting down grocery lists and meal plans on scraps of paper for the last, well, as long as I can remember. My grocery lists can be found on scraps of paper and envelopes and whatever is around at the time, notebooks scribbled with meal plans, etc. Basically our entire meal planning process was a little frazzled.

When Natasha sent me an early-access download of her Fall Seasonal Meal Planner (which launches TODAY for everyone!) I was immediately hooked. The planner houses everything in one place. There is a page each week to jot down dinners and a spot at the bottom of each day for noting any recipes you might use. There is another page for breakfast and lunch plans for the week and, what I find most helpful, a page that encourages you to take inventory of what you already have in your pantry as well as what commitments you have on that week’s calendar. It’s so smartly designed for meal planning – as formal or as relaxed as you want to be with the whole process. I have plans in the coming weeks to 3-hole-punch all the pages for an entire season’s worth of meal planning and put it in a binder to store in our kitchen so it looks as pretty as Natasha’s does! Isn’t it cute?

Natasha also has free crash courses on planning meals that you can sign up for HERE. Over the last couple weeks I’ve found her meal planner to be an incredible compliment to the semi-casual way that I like to plan my meals throughout the week and a great resource as I’ve tried to utilize what is in-season and in my pantry when planning meals throughout the week. Seriously, for $29 you get a lot of bang for your buck. Pair that with signing up for my weekly meal planning newsletter and you should be set with everything you need to get on the meal-planning and prepping bandwagon for the fall.

Madison