Month: October 2017

Chilled to the bone? Warm up with a bowl of Cheeseburger Soup!

*Recipe adapted from Taste of Home*

INGREDIENTS

1 lb Ground Beef

1 small Onion, chopped

1 cup Shredded Carrots

1 1/2 tsp Dried Basil

1 1/2 tsp Dried Parsley Flakes

4 Tbsp Butter, divided

32 oz Box Chicken Broth

2 large Potatoes, peeled and diced

1/4 cup All Purpose Flour

16 oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1 1/2 cups Milk

Salt/Pepper to taste

1/4 cup Sour Cream

DIRECTIONS

Brown the ground beef in a saucepan.  Drain and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 Tbsp butter, onions, carrots, parsley flakes, and basil.  Sauté until tender.

Add the broth, potatoes, and ground beef and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

In a small skillet, melt remaining 3 Tbsp of butter and add the flour to it.  Cook and stir 2-3 minutes or until bubbly.  Add this mixture to the soup and bring to a boil.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes then reduce heat to low.

Stir in the cheese and milk, then season with salt and pepper.  Stir until the cheese melts.  Turn the heat off then stir in sour cream.

OPTIONAL: Top with a pinch of cheese and a dollop of sour cream when ready to serve.

Enjoy!

This soup is soooo good you guys!  It’s hearty and filling and will definitely warm you up on a cold night.  Make this.  Seriously.

No Bake Double-Layer Pumpkin Pie

*Recipe adapted from Kraft*

Pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie?  Which do you prefer?

I have found that most people either like one or the other.  You know, kind of like mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip.  (FYI I despise Miracle Whip).  I’m a sweet potato pie girl myself, but I wanted to give this pumpkin recipe a try for a few different reasons:

  1. It’s no bake;
  2. It has a delicious cream cheese and Cool-Whip layer; and
  3. Because it’s the season for #pumpkineverything

This pie was really easy to put together and while the original recipe claimed it would make one 6 inch pie, I was actually able to make two pies from it.  This was due in part to Mr. Effortless bringing home two pie crusts instead of just the one that I had asked for, but in the end, I’m glad that he did because after reading the comments from others that have made this, it was recommended that you use a deep dish pie crust if available, because otherwise, the filling would spill over the top.  So I decided I would make two pies; one for us to try here at home and another to gift to someone else.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she was telling me how the daughter of one of her neighbors loves to bake, but apparently no one in their house eats sweets, so whenever the little girl bakes, her mother sends her over to my friends’ house to drop the treats off and she’s left to eat them all!  This made me LOL, as I have definitely been guilty of this….making treats and sending them right on out the door!  But in regards to this pie, we’ll be taking the extra one to my father-in-law who greatly appreciates my sweet treats, so it’s a win-win for all!

Now back to this pie.

INGREDIENTS

8 oz Cream Cheese

2 Tbsp Sugar

1 cup plus 1 Tbsp Milk, divided

12 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed and divided

2 Ready to Use Graham Cracker Pie Crusts

15 oz can Pumpkin

2 boxes (3.56 oz each) Instant Vanilla Pudding

1 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

DIRECTIONS

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and 1 Tbsp of milk together in a large bowl with a whisk until blended.  Stir in half of the Cool Whip.  Spread mixture onto bottom of both pie crusts.

In another bowl, whisk together pumpkin, dry pudding mixes, spices, and remaining milk for about 2 minutes.  (The mixture will be thick).  Spread the pumpkin layer over the cream cheese layer.

Divide the remaining Cool Whip and spread it over the top of both pies.  Cover and refrigerate them for 4 hours or until firm.

ENJOY!  (Or drop it off for someone else to enjoy….HA!)

 

 

Simple Halloween Place Setting

Halloween is right around the corner and I’ve been seeing tons of inspiration for kids’ parties, but not a lot for us grown folks that are big kids at heart.  So I threw together this simple (and inexpensive) place setting that would be perfect for an adult dinner party.

The tablecloth, skull, skeleton hand, and white plate were all picked up at the Dollar Tree for $1.00 each.  The striped plate is from Ikea and retails for $4.99.  The flower is from Michaels and was attached to a garland that I’ve had for awhile now, so I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I do remember picking it up on clearance.  All of Michael’s fall florals are currently on clearance at 70% off, so if you’re in need of faux flowers, now is a great time to pick some up.

I literally put this place setting together in about 5 minutes, but to dress it up even further, I would lay a table runner down the middle of the table; add a black place mat under each setting; lay the cutlery on top of a striped cloth napkin; and add a nice floral arrangement in burgundies and pinks to serve as the centerpiece.

TIP: When creating a floral arrangement, you can always do a mix of real flowers with fake ones if you have some on hand.  I like doing this because real flowers can get pricey, but if I add fakes ones and mix them in with the real ones, my arrangement ends up looking nice and full and I save some money too.

And since you know I love me a themed-event, here is a sample dinner menu that coordinates perfectly with the Halloween theme:

 

Farm-Themed Birthday Party

My family and I spent this past weekend celebrating our sweet babies turning 3 years old. I have enjoyed picking their party themes the past couple of years but as they are getting older, I can see that I’m going to have to relinquish that control at some point and let them select their own themes. And knowing my twins, they won’t agree on what that theme will be, so I’ll probably end up having to coordinate two different parties.

As I mentioned in this post here, I planned a farm-themed party this year and we celebrated with a handful of our kids’ friends and parents, and some of our family members. The weather was gorgeous; a bit hot for October but there was no rain (thank goodness), just sunny skies with a nice breeze, which was important because all of the festivities were held in the backyard.

Let’s go over the events for the afternoon shall we?

We kicked things off with a farm-themed lunch. We feasted on pigs in a blanket with two different dipping sauces, farm-raised turkey sandwiches, chicken feed AKA cheddar Chex mix, farm-fresh deviled eggs, and fresh-picked apples. The dessert table featured mud cups AKA chocolate pudding with crushed Oreos), Cow Tales candy, and a chocolate and vanilla marbled cake with chocolate ganache that featured two fondant pigs bathing in “mud”.

The take home gifts were another yummy treat: sea salt and caramel chocolate-covered Oreos, and they were delicious!

Next on the agenda were the games. We started with a chicken egg hunt. While the kids were eating, I hid plastic eggs filled with treats around the yard. I showed the kids a framed picture of my chicken friend Henny and explained that she had laid eggs and that they needed to find them and put them in their goodie bags.

I used leftover plastic Easter eggs for this game, so they were all brightly colored purple, pink, orange, and blue eggs. It was funny watching the kids gather the eggs. When my daughter would find a blue egg, she would give it to my son, and when he found a pink or purple egg, he would give them to her. My daughter was the only girl at the party, so after a while, all of the little boys started giving her all of the pink and purple eggs. It was very cute!

The second game they played was Hot Potato. I should really say the second game they attempted to play was Hot Potato. I went back and forth about this game because I thought the kids might not get the concept of someone getting out each round, and I was right. As the first kid was left holding the potato when the music stopped and got “out”, all of the kids attempted to leave the game because they thought it was over! Mr. Effortless tried to explain the rules a few times and help them to reconvene, but needless to say, we ended that game fairly quickly!

Next we played a pig roundup game.

We sectioned off a corner of the yard with a mini fence to serve as a pig pen.

I purchased a pack of pink balloons, blew them up, and glued pig faces to each one. I scattered the pigs around the yard and asked the kids to help round them up and put them in the pen. The idea of this game was great; the kids loved running around and picking up the “pigs”, that is until they started popping from being poked by the grass as the kids attempted to pick them up! It was actually pretty funny, but I was afraid someone would be traumatized by the popping pigs. Most of the kids were troopers though, and as the balloons popped, they would just run and find another one to pick up. Everyone except for my daughter. After the first one popped on her, she was done!

The last game was an old-fashioned potato sack race and this one, like the Hot Potato game, may be better received when the kids are a bit older. Everyone understood how to play, but a couple kids were simply uninterested in getting in a sack so they sat that game out. My daughter completed about half of the race then determined that she could jump no more. My son and one of his buddies finished like champs though!

After we finished the games, each child was able to pick a walking farm animal balloon to take home with them. I found these on Amazon. They were a big hit and my kids still have a couple of them left in the house that they’re using as punching bags!

At the end of the party, we all went inside the house to sing happy birthday and eat cake, then all of the guests went home.

We’re very grateful to the friends and family that came over to celebrate with us. It was a beautiful day, and most importantly, my kids genuinely enjoyed themselves.

 

 

2017 Fall Bucket List – Update no. 1

I posted my family’s 2017 Fall Bucket List here.  Now that we’re about half-way through October, I feel like it’s time for an update to see what’ve we’ve checked off of our list so far.  Let’s jump right in.

4. Host a Halloween-themed movie night – CHECK!

The initial plan was to invite a few people over for this movie night, but we ended up doing it impromptu so it was just the fam and I. I never realized it before, but there aren’t a lot of non-scary Halloween movies for young kids.  “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” seemed to be on most people’s top 10 lists of Halloween movies for kids, but hubby and I weren’t sure this would keep our kids attention as it was a bit slow going.  They seemed to be more interested in the snacks than the movie anyway, so hubby and I threw on Men in Black while they played and ate popcorn.

5. Enter the kids into a Halloween costume contest – CHECK!

I was probably the most excited about this item on the bucket list.  We took the kids to an event called the Family Monster Ball which included dinner and dessert, dancing, fun, and games hosted by a local DJ, and costume contests for the adults and kids.  Our kids had a great time dancing and playing with the other kids, and my hubby and I enjoyed watching them.  There’s nothing like seeing your children running around with huge smiles on their faces.  There were about 15-20 families there, which made the event more intimate and interactive.

Here are the kiddos getting ready to leave the house, costumes in hand:

And here they are at the ball:

We entered our kids in the ages 5 and under costume category and they took home the win!!!  The winners were chosen by applause and it seemed like everyone was rooting for my babies!  They took home bragging rights and a $50 gift card.

8. Make pumpkin chili – CHECK!

I posted about this delicious chili and cornbread recipe here. If you’re looking for the perfect fall recipe, this is it.

10. Decorate the porch for fall

I don’t usually do a lot of decorating on our porch with the exception of some type of wreath or monogram on the front door, a few topiaries in pots, and a throw pillow or two, so I kept it simple with my fall décor as well.

I just put a scarecrow wreath on the door, I leaned a few scarecrows on the columns that I picked up on clearance at Michaels, and I updated the covers on my throw pillows with some fabric I had leftover from a previous project.  The two pumpkins you see in the first picture are the ones the kids will be painting, so we’ll have number 1 on the bucket list checked off soon too.

So that’s it, so far we’ve hit 4 out of the 10 items on the list.

How are you and your loved ones celebrating fall?

Cookie Cake Recipe

As a child, I remember passing the storefront of the Great American Cookie Co. in my local mall and drooling over their humungous iced cookie cakes, brownies, and of course the cookies.  Double Doozie anyone?

Nowadays they go by Great American Cookies, but the treats have not changed.

Do you have a “pinning” problem like I do? You know, you pin or print out hundreds of recipes that you mean to try one day, you just never get around to making them.  I’ve had Melanie of Garnish and Glaze’s recipe for a Chocolate Chip Cookie cake tucked away for some time now and I’ve finally tested the recipe and boy, is it a good one!  It’s nostalgic of the classic cookie cake from Great American Cookies, the ingredients are easy to throw together, and the result is amazing!

I was looking for a dessert to bring in to work to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but I wanted to make something other than the typical cake or cupcake fare.  Then I remembered I had this jewel of a recipe in my stash.  Make it.  You’ll thank me later.  It’s scrumptiously good and a great alternative to traditional cake.

Cookie Cake Recipe

Cookie Ingredients:

-10 tablespoons butter
-2/3 cups brown sugar
-1/3 cup white sugar
-1 egg + 1 egg yolk
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 teaspoon baking soda
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1 cup chocolate chips

Frosting Ingredients:

-4 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons cocoa powder
-1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1-2 tablespoons milk
-Sprinkles

Cookie Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a (8 or 9 inch) pie plate or cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugars together for 2 minutes and then mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Use a wooden spoon to mix in all but 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips and then press the cookie dough into the pie plate. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips on top and press them down slightly.
Bake for 22-25 minutes. Let the cookie cool completely and then run a sharp knife along the edge to loosen and then use a large spatula (or two!) to transfer to a platter. Pipe on frosting along the edges and add the sprinkles.

Frosting Directions:

Beat all the frosting ingredients together until smooth, adding milk as needed. Place into a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip.


 
Note: I realized that I was out of cocoa powder after I had already starting making the cookie, so I substituted two tablespoons of hot cocoa mix in the frosting and it still turned out great.

Let’s Talk Cake!

Cake is a must on birthdays.  Seriously, it is.  Look it up.  I’m sure it’s a rule somewhere.  I’m not sure where, but just trust me, it is.

I have a bit of a sweet tooth by nature, but I’m also passionate about health and fitness, so I don’t always partake in the sweet stuff as often as I’d like to.  But if we’re celebrating a birthday, you better believe there will be cake.

Just as much as I love a great themed party, I swoon over beautifully constructed themed cakes.  While planning my twins’ upcoming Farm-themed party, I scoured the internet for farm party cakes and the net’ did not disappoint.

Check out this masterpiece from The Cocoa Cakery:

And this one featured on MomOoze.com:

These cakes are perfection and I would be ecstatic to have them at our party, but just like with my party décor, I always try to do what I can at home to keep expenses down.

Last year, to coordinate with my babies’ camping-themed party, I made a four-layer S’mores Cake inspired by Cathy of What Should I Make For… .  Cathy’s cake looked scrumptious and drool-worthy.  It was a naked cake, so you could see each of the decadent layers: chocolate cake, whipped chocolate ganache, graham cracker crumbles, chocolate cake, marshmallow frosting, then more cake, ganache, graham crackers, and frosting.  It was a sweet lover’s dream come true!

I took my inspiration from Cathy’s cake and made my own version, the Effortless way.  Cathy’s chocolate cake was made from scratch.  I used two boxed chocolate cake mixes.

TIP:  Boxed cake mixes make great cakes; to give them a more “from scratch” taste, I substitute coconut oil for the vegetable oil and add about 1 Tbsp of Vanilla Extract.  You can also substitute the oil for real butter.

I followed Cathy’s ganache recipe to the letter.  When most people hear ganache, they think it’s fancy and complicated.  It definitely elevates desserts, but it’s so easy to make.  Here is the recipe:

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

INGREDIENTS:

3/4 Cup Heavy Cream

1 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup

8 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Heat heavy cream and corn syrup over medium heat until hot, but not boiling.

Place chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour cream mixture over. Let stand for 5 minutes and then stir until blended.

Place bowl in refrigerator for about an hour, stirring occasionally until ganache thickens to a spreadable consistency.

Remove from refrigerator and beat on high until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Cover and reserve.

Easy peasy, right?  I told you so.

I also followed Cathy’s instructions for the graham cracker crumbles.  You just crumble graham crackers in a food processor, add a little salt, sugar, and melted butter, then bake them in the oven for 12-15 minutes.  You sprinkle this mixture over each of the ganache layers.

Cathy also made her marshmallow frosting from scratch; I took a pre-made cream cheese frosting and mixed it with marshmallow fluff until it was the right consistency, and that was that.  I frosted the entire cake and adorned it with two cute bear cubs and a row of trees, all purchased from Amazon.

I wish I would have taken pictures of the cake after we cut the first slice out so that you could see each of the beautiful layers.  It was truly magnificent!

Here is the finished cake:

 

It was one of the easiest cakes I’ve ever made and it tasted absolutely delicious!  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

 

For this year’s farm party cake, I’m thinking about doing a chocolate and vanilla marble cake to mimic a cow print pattern and there will definitely be some ganache in the mix.  I’m still deciding how I’d like to decorate it, but stay tuned, it will be great!

 

 

Halloween Inspiration: Costume Pairs

 

I have great childhood memories of getting dressed up for Halloween with my sisters and running door-to-door with the neighborhood kids, all of us trying to collect as much candy as we possibly could. Sometimes we had store-bought costumes and other times we created our own outfits with sparkly wigs, lots (and I mean lots) of makeup, and mix-matched clothes. It was always so much fun seeing all of the different costumes while we were out. Then, at the end of the night, my sisters and I would race back home so that we could dump out our goodie bags and do some trading with one another so that we could get more of the candy that we each really wanted! Fun times!

Nowadays, safety is a major concern for most parents, so I don’t think that many kids today run wild on Halloween the way I remember as a kid. And I get it, I’m a parent too and my kids’ safety is a top priority. But I want my kids to grow up really enjoying the holiday, whether it be going door-to-door with mom and dad, enjoying a church festival, or celebrating the occasion with friends at school. Mr. Effortless and I do what we can to help them get into the spirit and dressing up in cute costumes is a must!

Here is the fam and I a couple years back, dressed as a family of pirates:

 

 

I’m a sucker for clever costume pairs: Popeye and Olive Oil, a Crayon Box with a Crayon, or Colonel Sanders and a Bucket of Chicken:

And check out this family representing In-N-Out Burger:

Last year, my son was the Cookie Monster and my daughter was a giant cookie. They were a perfect pair and they received tons of compliments.

The Cookie Monster costume is available on Amazon and you can find the cookie costume at Target stores.

 

No matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope you enjoy the time spent with your loved ones!

 

 

Wordless Wednesday (but not really!): Orange Creamsicle Cocktail with Whipped Vodka

 

Recipe adopted from Mike Fuller of Delishably:

Orange Creamsicle Cocktail with Whipped Vodka (2 servings)

Ingredients:

Shaker cup filled half-full with ice

2 oz Pinnacle Whipped Vodka

4 oz Sunkist Soda

Whip Cream, for topping

Optional: Festive straw to make you feel like you’re on vacation (or drinking something fancy!)

DIRECTIONS:

Pour the vodka and soda into your ice-filled shaker cup…..shake

Pour the cocktail into a glass or mug

Top with whipped cream

Enjoy!