Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crispy Kale Chips

I made these kale chips last year and loved them! I had bought a bunch of kale for my green smoothies and didn't really love how they made my smoothie taste a little too grassy. I did a google search and found this recipe from The Food Network. It looked simple enough and really turned out great!

First off, cut the ribs from each leaf of kale. I tore them into chip sized pieces and put them in my salad spinner.


After spinning them, put them on a cookie sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, then use your hands to toss them.


Bake at 275 degrees for about 20 minutes, turning them halfway through. I had a lot on my sheet so ended up baking for a few more minutes. The majority of them come out deliciously crispy. There were a few that were not completely crispy but that didn't bother me.


I don't know how well these keep because they are gone pretty quickly. Give them a try! They are a great snack and pretty nutritious too!

Have a happy Thursday!!!

Monica

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Digi Day

Little Dreamer Designs has such a fun back to school kit for September. It's called Old School and was so fun to work with. I love when I can scrap a layout and really have fun doing it too.

Chalkboards are so in right now and that does not exclude the digital scrapbooking world. I love Michelle's chalkboard "paper" and her chalky stamps are sooo fun. I love the gold stars too. They just add the perfect detail. Of course my adorable Maggie makes this layout just perfect. :)
 
Pick up the kit at Little Dreamer Designs.
 
Happy Thursday!
 
Monica


Monday, September 9, 2013

Crock Pot Yogurt

I said I'd do it, and I did. I like when that happens. It was easy, I didn't die, and not only do I love the way it turned out, my kids do too! Score 1 for the mom. :)

My mom has made her own yogurt for years and I always looked at her bowl of rotten milk sitting on her counter with disgust. It seemed pretty hokie. I never actually tried it though (sorry mom). In my internet searching for whole foods recipes I came across this recipe and it intrigued me. I use a lot of yogurt at my house. Not only for eating plain but in smoothies and all sorts of other recipes. Yogurt is pricey, especially when you're purchasing the quality stuff. Well, to get away from the artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners I decided to give this a go.

I found this recipe at Bless This Mess. Her blog is a great resource in some whole foods recipes. :)

Crockpot Yogurt

1/2 gallon (8 cups) whole milk (I haven't tried a lower fat content yet, supposedly the yogurt is thinner.)
1/2 cup commercial plain yogurt that says “Live and Active Cultures” on the tub. I used Stoneyfield farms plain greek yogurt.
In a large crock pot pour in the milk.  Turn it on low for around 2 1/2 hours.  After that time has passed, unplug the crock pot and let it sit for 3 hours. After the 3 hours has passed stir in the 1/2 cup of  yogurt.  Replace the lid of the crock pot and cover with 2 big towels or a blanket. (I just used one big towel. My mom just uses a dish towel.) Let rest for 8 to 12 hours (Mine was longer, I wasn't getting up at 3 a.m. That's why I was worried I was going to get sick. It ended up being 17 hours).  In the morning you’ll have yogurt!  Put it in a quart sized mason jar and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. Mine filled up two jars with a small bowl leftover. It will thicken up in the fridge. Don't forget to save 1/2 cup of your yogurt for your next batch.
 
At this point I was worried about my safety. ;) It was cool to see the transformation though.
 
I filled two of these quart sized jars. So I ended up with a half gallon of yogurt for approximately $1.25. Not bad!

You can also let the yogurt strain in cheese cloth, in the fridge for a few hours and you’ll get a thicker Greek yogurt!
 
Awesome. So glad it worked out. It feels great serving a wholesome product to the kiddos. I sliced a banana in it and drizzled honey. They loved it. Personally, I think it has a milder flavor than some of the plain yogurts I've purchased from the store.
 
 
Have a great Monday!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tomatoes...Please Don't Go.

This year I've really enjoyed the garden tomato. I grew up loving them straight from the garden, freshly picked and warm from the sun. I couldn't wait for those plump green maters to turn juicy and red. Sometimes I would eat them in the garden straight from the vine. Especially, the cherry tomatoes. One for the bowl, two for me. Yum.

Unfortunately tomato season seems to take forever to get here and goes all too quick. My sisters-in-law bottle tomatoes and salsa. That's on my to do list for someday. For now, I just enjoy them while I can.

My friend Katie the Scrapbook Lady blogged in August about her favorite salad, the Caprese Salad. I had to try it immediately. I had some farmer's market tomatoes, basil, and I picked up some fresh mozz. How can three simple ingredients together be so unbelievably tasty? I drizzled mine with Newman's Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette. I've been in love ever since. So thank you Katie for introducing me to me new love. I'm just sad tomato season is just about over. *sniffles*

 
 
Better hurry and give this a try! Because you can't possibly make this with store bought tomatoes shipped from another country. It would never taste the same. :)
 
Happy Friday!
 
Love, Monica

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Whole Foods Cooking

Hey all! After an extremely busy Summer the kids started back to school today and I've started to get our life back in order. I have an empty fridge and a really messy house. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed but I know with time I'll have some order again.

Something that has been on my mind lately is how our family eats. I don't feel like we are extremely unhealthy but we definitely have room for improvement. Mainly, I'd like to do more whole foods cooking and try to cut out more processed foods. Jillian Michaels as loud as she is, is one of my favorite fitness gurus. I love her philosophy of calories in/calories out. Simple as that. She also teaches the 80/20 philosophy. Meaning, 80% of your time eating "clean" and 20% of your time, living life. I'm not the type to say sugar is evil, hello, cupcake fan here. But I do think an 80/20 way of life is doable.

I'd like to occasionally post any websites or recipes that we find are helping us on our journey. In my "research" I found a website that has kind of guided me on my start to more whole foods cooking.

Melissa over at Bless This Mess has put together a two week "clean" eating plan. She also follows the 80/20 philosophy. I love her idea of just doing the very best you can for your family. I have used her Spring/Summer menu as a guideline. Check out her website and pin for future reference. It's a great resource. I am also planning on using her whole wheat bread recipe, granola, and crock pot yogurt. I'll let you know how they turn out. :)

I hope everyone had a great Summer!! Here comes Fall! I love Fall. I hope it decides to hang around for a bit. :)

And because every post needs a pic. :)

First Day! 2013-2014

Friday, July 12, 2013

Little Dreamer Designs - American Summer Kit

Hey all! Happy July! Holy cow summer is zipping by. I wanted you to know about the adorable kit at Little Dreamer Designs for July. It's called American Summer and is perfect for your Summer photos. It's main colors are red, white, and blue but it also has nautical and Americana elements to scrap lots of fun summer activities.

Adorable, right? Find it HERE.
 
 
I always try to take a photo of the flag at the 4th of July parade. I love how it turned out this year. The marine looked so sharp and I happened to capture him in between the kids with their hands on their hearts. I love the patriotic feel of a small town parade. I'm so grateful for this country and the freedoms we enjoy. I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July. :)
 
Love,
Monica
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Digi Day

Little Dreamer Designs has the perfect kit to scrapbook all your Father's Day pics. It's called La Moustache and is fabulous!!!

Adorable, right?!!

This kit made me realize that I need more pics of my kiddos with their pops. I love the colors. They worked perfectly with my sunset photos. Pick it up HERE.
 
I hope everyone is enjoying your June!!! We traveled half way across the country last weekend and are already having a blast with family in Utah!
 
Party on people! Have a great day!
 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Digi Day

I just wanted to let you know that Little Dreamer Designs has a gorgeous kit this month. Just a reminder that her kits are purchased by a monthly subscription. I just love her designs.
 
Michelle created another beautiful kit. It was made to celebrate all the beautiful women in our lives. It is called She - A Tribute to Her. You can check it out Here.


 
This is my little B about 5 years ago. I love this picture of my little guy. Now he barely fits in my lap. *Sigh* Right now I'm in the trenches of motherhood, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. 
Credits: Little Dreamer Designs-She, Splendid Fiins-Staple and Date Stamp
 
I hope everyone is enjoying their Spring. I know we are. We have a big Summer coming up and we're excited!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

PB&Js for the Freezer

I got a small freezer for my birthday. Who asks for a freezer for their birthday anyway? One clue, I'm getting old. ;) I've had fun finding recipies and building our food storage and trying to simplify my life using the freezer. I know Pinterest is full of freezer ideas but I wanted to share my favorite ideas with you.
 
When I'm in a pinch, I love being able to grab a sandwich out of the freezer for the kids. I can put them in their lunch bag in the morning and they are thawed and ready to eat by lunch time. These are similar to the Uncrustables brand you find in the stores. The great thing about these are they are so much cheaper and made at home. Win-win.
 

Supplies: Peanut Butter, Any Fruit preserve you want (we like grape or strawberry, homemade would be awesome), one loaf of bread (white or wheat), and a crust remover and sealer. I found mine a couple of years ago. I doubt you'll find this exact one at the store but you can find it on ebay. I know The Pampered Chef makes a really cute one too.


 First, one loaf of bread will make 12 sandwiches. That includes the end pieces. I usually do a half a loaf at a time. Spread each slice with peanut butter keeping it mostly in the center. Remember the crusts get cut off so they don't need PB. The reason both sides need PB is to decrease the chances that the jelly will soak through the bread and make it soggy. It makes a nice little pocket for the jelly to hang out.

 Next put the preserves on only half of the slices laid out. Again, keep it in the middle. Go ahead and sandwich the two sides together.
 
Next, use your cutter. On mine the white part cuts the crust off and the red part seals the edges.

 Here it is cut out. Don't throw away the crusts. You can process them into bread crumbs, they make a quick snack for the toddler tugging at your feet, and they are great for the birds or ducks. :)
 
Lastly, wrap each individual sandwich in saran wrap or individual baggies, then put them in a larger freezer bag.
 
Easy Peasy. Quick. Tasty.
 
Hope you have a wonderful Monday!
 
Love,
Monica


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Shelf

Hi!  Erica here!  It's been awhile since I last posted.  I'm sorry.  I'm quite the slacker.  Life is busy.  But, I like it that way.   

Here's what I've been working on...


Here's my shelf for St. Patrick's Day!
Love how it turned out.  Almost everything is homemade.  

I got the wooden shamrocks from a friend, un-decorated.  I painted them, and modged podged glitter, and paper on the other ones.  

I wrote on the mason jar with a hot glue gun, and then painted over it.  I bought me some pom pom makers, and made some with my fingers too for the flowers and wreath.  To make the wreath I cut out a big circle out of the top of my pizza box and cut out the center.  I then wrapped all around it with yarn and then hot glued all the poms on until I liked how it looked. 




Here's a video tutorial for pompom making.


I then filled a mason jar full of some golden nugget chocolates and topped that with skittles.  Of course skittles don't have blue in them, so I crumpled up some blue construction paper to add the blue in the rainbow.


And the adorable chalk frame was made by me sweet sister, Monica.  Love how I can write something new whenever I feel like it.

Last but not least is my cute garland.  I crocheted a bunch of shamrocks with different shades of green and then strung them on a single strand of white yarn.  Love it!



Here's the tutorial I used to make these cute little things.

Sadly, I don't have a mantel.  So, I make do with a gorgeous shelf that I have in my living room.  I look forward to decorating it for each season/holiday.  It's a lot of fun and I always love showing it off.  :o)  If you have any questions, just shoot me an email or leave a comment.  I'll do my best to help out.

Have a happy Tuesday!  

Love, Erica*

Monday, February 25, 2013

February Birthday Cake of the Month

For my birthday my sweet mother-in-law gave me a new subscription for The Food Network magazine. I had been without my beloved magazine for at least a year. Darn budget. But alas we have reacquainted. I love that mag. Because getting back to life after Christmas took me some time, I finally was able to sit down with my January mag.



Notice in the upper right hand corner. Yep, that's a cake. One of the reasons Erica and I have posted less frequently is the fact that we have both been dieting for the past year. Dieting and baking do NOT go hand in hand unfortunately.
 
Well, dieting does not take my love of baking away. I was excited to see this article and found myself at least a monthly post for you. Any excuse for me to bake a cake, right? No one in my house complained. I missed January so I'll get that one next year. But without further ado I introduce February's Birthday Cake of the Month!
 
Chocolate Blackout Cake

This cake is a chocolate lovers dream! It i a chocolate cake with a chocolate filling, frosted with a whipped ganache, then topped with ganache. Holy yum. I was content with one piece but I may have "tasted" the ganache a few times. Ganache is awesome. Chocolate+Cream= Awesome. 

A view of the inside. 

Pre-frosted layers.
 
Lucky for you, you can find this recipe on The Food Networks website. Now go make one but make sure to have some recipients to give some away to!
 
Happy Monday!
 
Love, Monica

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Digi Day

Since my last Digi Day, things have changed in my digital world. After being part of the Jessica Sprague Creative Team for 3 years, the admin of the site decided to disband the team and let individual designers control their own teams. I was sad for it to end. The great thing is other doors have opened for me. I've joined two other teams and am excited to continue sharing my work.
 
Also, last year I started Project Life but didn't quite have my heart into it. I wanted to try again this year because I love the concept so much. So far, so good!!! I'm on week 8! I'm doing more a Project 52, week by week. The awesome thing, is I'm doing more of a hybrid style. So I'm dabbling a bit with paper and glue again. That has been a lot of fun. I will share more of that soon.
 
When the CT was disbanded everyone quickly jumped onto other teams. I kind of took my time. I needed the break and I needed to stand back and assess what I could handle. The opportunity came for me to join Little Dreamer Designs with Michelle Coleman. She has a subscription based product. You can subscribe month to month or a 6 month subscription. It is so reasonable priced and you get a super packed gorgeous kit. These things are huge!
 
February's kit is just gorgeous. Seriously. It's beautiful. I loved playing with it. You can still pick it up through the end of this month.

You Are Loved by Michelle Coleman
February 2013 Collection
 Gorgeous, right? You can find it HERE.

Here is my layout using this beautiful kit. I love the little details; stitches, glitter scatters, twine. I fell in love with the grey heart background. Her texture on the paper is just amazing. I'm a scrapping nerd, right? ;) This photo is one of my all time faves of Ben. I captured him in a giggle. Oh how he has grown.
 
Well, happy Thursday!! We are getting close to Spring people. It doesn't feel like it here, but it's around the corner right? ;)
 
Love,
Monica

Friday, February 8, 2013

Valentines Day Printable

I made this Valentines printable last year. I wanted to show you how cute it looks on my book shelf. I personally think it's one of the cuter printables out there. Ahem. :)


Anyway, you can still download it if you would like. Just remember to credit House 344 and please don't use it for financial gain.



Download it HERE.
(On my browser for some reason, when I click the link it comes up as an error. Just X out of the error box and in the upper left hand side click on the little downward arrow. It should download just fine.)

Hope you have an awesome Friday!

Love, Monica



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Valentines Cuppies

Look what I did! I baked! I made the most gloriously delicious cupcakes. It could be because I've limited myself to one sweet per week and the taste of sugar in my mouth was just indescribable or it could be because this is just an awesome cupcake. I think it was a bit of both.

I've shared this recipe before but if you haven't made it, please do! This chocolate cupcake is my go to recipe. These are just as quick as a box cake but much much more tasty. I promise. :)


These weren't meant to be Valentines cupcakes hence the mismatch yellow liners and Valentines sprinkles. I found the cute cupcake liners at Michael's in their dollar section. The sprinkles were in my stash, I'm pretty sure they are Wilton. See how pretty these turned out?

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes


3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the cocoa, flour, sugar, soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix till combined scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Scoop batter in liners and fill one-half to two-thirds full. (Be careful here!) Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until top of cupcake springs back when lightly touched. Let cool completely before frosting. Makes approx. 18 cupcakes.

Note: Do Not overfill your liners on this recipe. They will over flow.

Source: Martha Stewart Cupcakes

For this cuppie I used Martha's Swiss Meringue Buttercream. If you've never tried this frosting before, you have to give it a try! It's so much smoother and much less annoyingly sweet than a regular buttercream. It does take a little more work but it's so worth it. I halved this recipe for one batch of One Bowl Chocolate cupcakes.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day.

Source: Martha Stewart Cupcakes



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