Baked Italian Chicken, Potatoes, & Green Beans

one pan Italian chicken dish 2

I discovered this super easy dish that I decided to save for a night when I don’t have much time to prep dinner.
Sometimes, life gets really busy, especially when you have kids in sports and activities.  I like to keep several ideas in mind for easy dinners that can be thrown together or made ahead then popped into the oven when we get home.  This recipe is very easy, involves only 4 ingredients, and tastes delicious.
At first, I was wondering if this would all taste the same, so would it be worth it?  BUT I marinade the meat and vegetables in Italian dressing when I make kebabs, and those taste AMAZING.  So I decided to give it a try when I wasn’t feeling too well.  My kids have a tendency to ask “Is this all we are having?” If I make less than a four course meal.  They were very happy about this one, and there were NO leftovers.
The chicken is moist, especially if using boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I cut the potatoes small because the smaller they are cut, the more tender they turn out to be. You can actually use several different kinds of potatoes for this, so the dish is very flexible with whatever you have on hand.  I prefer baby red potatoes. The green beans can be fresh, canned, or frozen.  You can also replace them with another vegetable, such as carrots or corn.
This is definitely on our “redo” list (as my kids call it).
one pan italian chicken dish

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

strawberry chocolate chip cookies

Check out these delicious cookies that combine the tastes of a chocolate covered strawberry!

Let me start by saying I LOVE cookies – ANY kind of cookie. They are at the top of my list of things I love to bake (and eat, of course). While I have plenty of different recipes that I enjoy making, I’m always scouting for new and different kinds.

One morning, I was in a baking mood, so I asked my girls what kind of cookies they wanted. Cori said Chocolate and Cadi said Pink.  Then Izech came running over and said strawberry! So I looked around on the Internet for a recipe that included all of those ideas and I found something that looked and sounded delicious!

At first, I was a bit nervous about using cake mix in cookies because fluffy cake cookies are my least favorite.  But these sounded good, and the comments reassured me it wouldn’t be super cakey. The recipe was very easy to follow and fast to whip together.  The cookies came out of the oven, and I could resist trying one right away.  SOO yummy!  Soft, not cakey and definitely different.

All the kids were amazed at the pretty pink cookies that tasted like strawberries and chocolate.  One batch didn’t make it thru the day, and now the kids ask for them all the time.

You can find the recipe here:  http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/01/23/strawberry-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Let us know how yours turned out!

Handprint Spiders & Footprint Ghosts

halloween crafts 1

It’s Halloween! Do your kids still want to do a Halloween craft?  Here are two easy ones you can even save for next year.

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Handprint Spiders
I actually got this idea from an episode of Barney that my son really likes.  I added a little bit of my own creative spice to it.
MATERIALS:
Black construction paper
White construction paper
pink construction paper
yellow construction paper
pencil
Black marker
Scissors
Glue (we used a glue stick)
DIRECTIONS:
1. Take your piece of black construction paper and fold it in half.
2. Trace a hand, starting with the palm at the fold, leaving part of the palm off the page, otherwise the body looks a little too wide.
halloween crafts 2
3. Cut out the hand, but cut off the thumb so that you have four fingers (these are the four legs on each side of the spider).
Halloween crafts 3     halloween crafts 4
4. Open up the hand and glue it onto the yellow piece of construction paper.
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5. Cut out two small white circles from the white construction paper.  Glue those on the bottom of the spider.
6. Cut out two small black circles from your leftover black construction paper.  These circles need to be smaller than the white circles.  Glue them inside the white circles.
7. Cut out a mouth from the pink construction paper and glue it upside down above the eyes of the spider.
8. Draw a black line from the center of the spider body to the top of the page.  This is the string from the web.  Add a small web extending out from it.
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My kids really enjoyed this.  You can make a bat if you don’t separate the fingers and leave the thumb on!
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Footprint Ghost
 
I got this idea from the same episode of Barney, except they used paint.  I decided to give it a try using construction paper to go along with our spiders.  The kids were VERY excited about the way these ghosts turned out!
MATERIALS:
White construction paper
Orange construction paper
Scissors
Black marker
Glue (we used a glue stick)
DIRECTIONS:
1. Trace your child’s foot on the piece of white construction paper.  Cut it out.
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2. Put glue all over the pencil side.  Since it is white, and pencil marks would show up, so I made sure those went underneath.  Glue the footprint onto the orange construction paper.
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3. Draw on two ovals for eyes and on for the mouth.
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That’s it! SUPER easy! Even my almost two year old loved having his foot traced.  This was so quick and easy that it kept his attention long enough to do it

Last Minute Homemade Halloween Costumes

halloween costumes 1
Check out these DIY costumes for the whole family!
We mostly used things that we already had around the house, so purchases were minimal.  We spent less total than we would have on one costume!
 
halloween costumes 6
DELUXE HAIR STYLING KIT
My 10 year old decided during trick-or-treat LAST year that this was the costume she wanted me to make her for this year.  Last year, she was a hot air balloon, so she definitely likes creative costumes.  We already had all of this stuff except a box, which we got for free.
MATERIALS:
Box
Packing tape or duct tape
Box Knife or Pen
Yarn (any color)
Permanent markers
Paint
Paintbrushes
Make Up
Accessories
DIRECTIONS:
1. Fold the flaps of the box in on all sides (top and bottom).  Tape them down with the tape.
2. Paint the box.  I chose to do the front and back pink then the sides purple.
3. While the paint is drying, sketch out on a piece of paper what you want on your box.
4. Design your box.  I put the name and pictures of contents on the front; a list of contents on one side; As Seen on Tv and a price on the other side; the name, warning, and age group on the back.
halloween costumes 2     halloween costumes 5
Halloween Costumes 3     halloween costumes 4
5. Poke holes in the box near the top, a couple inches in, on the left and right – front and back.  You will use the box knife or pen for this.
6. Cut yarn to length of arm pit to armpit.  Thread the yarn through the holes on the right side and tie knots.  Do the same for the left side.  These will hold the box on the body.
7. Do hair and make-up.
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LEMONADE STAND
 
My 8 year old decided since her sister was using a box for her costume, she wanted to use one, too. So we decided on a lemonade stand!  This one was much easier than I expected, and we used all materials that we already had around the house.
MATERIALS:
Box
Packing tape or duct tape
Box knife
Paint (Blue, Brown, and Green)
Paintbrushes
1 sheet of construction paper
crayons, markers, or colored pencils
tea set
Hot glue gun
suspenders (yarn will work if you don’t have any)
DIRECTIONS:
1. Fold the flaps in on the bottom of the box.  Tape them down with the tape
2. Measure your child from front to back and side to side.  You will use those measurements to cut out a rectangle (or, in my daughter’s case, closer to a square since I measured farthest points sticking out) from the box.  The rectangle will be at the BACK of the top of the box and centered.  Use the box knife to cut it.
3.  Tape any loose flaps in at the top of the box.  Keep in mind that you want the top to be sturdy.  So I taped what I could under the top.
4. Paint a big blue rectangle around each side of the box, leaving about 4-5 inches at the top, 2-3 inches on each side, and an inch on the bottom.
5. When the pain dries, paint the sides and top with brown.
6. When the brown is dry, paint the bottom strip green, then brush grass up from the green strip.
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7. Hot glue tea cups and a pitcher to the top of the box.
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8. Cut the piece of construction paper into fourths.  I used a yellow piece since it is lemonade, and the yellow really stands out.  Write “Lemonade 10c” on the signs.  Hot glue it on each side.  I glued it on crooked so that i looks like it would if a kid had posted it on a real stand.
9.  Hook the box up with suspenders or yarn.
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HULA GIRL WIND-UP TOY
Our five year old wanted to be a wind-up toy.  Since we had everything in the dress-up bin for a hula dancer except the skirt, that’s what she went with.  All I had to do for hers was make the hula skirt and the wind-up part.  You can find many Hawaiian accessories at Dollar Tree during summer.  It was cold, so we layered her items over the clothes she already had on.
MATERIALS:
Flower Necklace
Flower bracelets
Flowers for hair
Bodysuit or swimsuit
Coconut bra
Hula skirt (raffia ribbon for DIY below)
Cardboard
Foil
DIRECTIONS:
1. Make your hula skirt using raffia if you don’t have one.  I found mine at JoAnn Fabrics in the floral section.  Take five long strands and tie a knot at the ends (tying the strands together).  This will be your waist.  Measure your child’s waste to see how wide you need the skirt to be.  This will be how wide you need the strands handing down to be, not just the ribbon you just tied.  My daughter’s measured 22″ and I actually needed about 24″ (so add about 2″ to your measurement).  The raffia ribbon came in long and short pieces (mostly long), so I did not use the short pieces.  Grab a long piece and fold it in half.  Lay the fold over middle of the waist band.  Pull the strands through.
halloween costumes 11
I started in the middle and did the right side, then went back and did the left side.  The leftover waist on each side is for tying it.
halloween costumes 12
2. Cut a “B” out of a piece of cardboard and cover it in foil.  Cut a slit in it in the middle of the flat side.
3. Dress your child.  When you put the coconut bra on, thread the back straps through the cardboard “B” before tying it behind the “B.”  This will hold the “wind-up” part on.
halloween costumes 13     halloween costumes 14
halloween costumes 16
OLD MAN FROM “UP”
 
I honestly don’t even remember how we came up with this idea, but the only thing we had to get for this was the pieces for the cane.  We didn’t have a sweater that looked similar, so we just used whatever jacket during the chilly trick-or-treat.  It wasn’t a big deal when he didn’t wear the glasses outside.  People still thought he was adorable and understood the costume.  We DID plan to color is hair by putting flour in it, but we were running short on time and decided to skip that part.  We chose flour because it is natural and not putting dangerous chemicals onto his body (which would then seep INTO his body).
MATERIALS:
Dress pants
White dress shirt
Black bowtie
Black fake glasses (we used 3D glasses without the lenses)
Jacket or sweater (optional)
1″ PVC pipe
4 Way connector
(6) 1″ Street elbows
4 tennis balls
Duct tape
DIRECTIONS:
1. Cut the pipe to the height your child needs (using whatever tool necessary.  You can probably ask a worker at Home Depot to do this).  Cut a 1″ hole in the Four way connector (only on the top.  DO NOT go through the other side).  Wrap duct tape around the bottom of the 1″ pipe and insert into the whole.  Add a street elbow to each of the four sides of the connector, facing down.  Add a street elbow to the top of the 1″ pipe.  Add the last street elbow to the one you just put on, so that it comes out and down.  Lastly, cut holes in the tennis balls for the street elbows on the bottom and insert them.
halloween costumes 19
2. Dress your child right before it is time to take pictures and leave, because white is really hard to keep clean!
halloween costumes 17
halloween costumes 18
OPPOSITE TEAM FAN
 
So, I didn’t actually make these ones…  But anyone who is a die hard fan knows how painful it is to appear to be cheering for the other team.  I am a RED SOX fan, so I wore his Yankees jersey.  Grant is a YANKEES fan, and he wore my Red Sox jersey.  We actually had one guy ask us if we were dying a little inside!
You can easily make this with a plain colored button down shirt and fabric markers.

3 Cute and Easy Halloween Treats

3 Cute and Easy Halloween Treats
Looking for fun Halloween food?  Try these crowd pleasers!
STRING CHEESE FINGERS
String Cheese Fingers
The first time I saw these, I thought – no way! That is too much detail! But I decided to give them a try anyway because they look really cool, and I knew my kids would love them!  It was MUCH easier than I expected, and the kids were very excited to try them!
You can find the recipe here:

http://magfood.blogspot.com/2011/10/ingredients-mozzarella-string-cheese.html

JACK-O-LANTERN ORANGES
Jack-O-Lantern Oranges
These look time consuming, but they go very quickly! The oranges are tiny, so they take very little time to carve!  The kids will think you spent HOURS doing these. You can make all the faces the same or spice it up and do them all differently!
I used fruit instead of jello.  I also cut a hole in the top and put the top of the spoon through it to make a stem.  This way, each one had a spoon with it for the fruit.
MUMMY CUPCAKES
I seem to have deleted the picture for this one – oops!  They were super cute, too!  :(  For this one, I followed the directions very loosely!  You can use any cupcake batter you want .  I made coffee cupcakes by flavoring homemade chocolate cupcakes with coffee extract.  If you have icing tips for this, great.  I had a wide one to use, but you can also do this with a wide, skinny cut in a ziploc bag.  I made hazlenut frosting.  The best part is that you do not have to make them perfect.  The strokes are quick and uneven, which is what makes them look so great!  I took these into work when I worked in a restaurant, and they did not last very long at all!
So, you may be thinking that these don’t LOOK that easy.  The title definitely is not misleading.  These really are much easier than they look!

Spider Web Craft

Spider web 1

Check out this spider craft easy enough for toddlers!

In the spirit of Halloween, we have been doing lots of nifty seasonal crafts. Much to my husband’s chagrin, we decided to do a spider craft. It came out pretty cute, so he was okay with it (LOL).  This craft was super easy, and my 3 year olds were able to do most of it on their own.

SUPPLIES:
Paper plate
Paint
2.5 feet of ribbon or string
Scissors
Glue
2 pieces of tape
Googly eyes
Black pipe cleaners
Milk jug lid

DIRECTIONS:
1. Cut small notches all the way around the plate, about 1″ apart.
2. Paint the plate any color of your choosing.  We went with reds and oranges for Halloween.
3. While the plate dries, paint your milk jug lid black and set it aside to dry.
4. When the plate is dry,use a piece of tape to attach one end of the string to the back of the plate. String it through the notches of the plate to create the spider web (using whatever pattern you choose).
5. Make sure the end of the string ends at the back of the plate.  Tape this end in place, too.
6. Cut the black pipe cleaners to the size you want for the legs.  I was running out of them, so our spiders only have 6 legs (1 pipe cleaner each cut into thirds).
7. Twist the pipe cleaners together so they are all attached.  Glue them to the bottom of the milk lid.  Once the glue dries you can bend them so they look more like legs.
8. Glue the googly eyes on top of the milk lid.
9. Decided where you want your spider to sit on its web.  Using the legs, bend the tips around the ribbon to hold him in place.

I used some left over ribbon scraps I had laying around to hang these up on the wall. The kids loved that they were able to do so much on their own.  They also loved how cute and unique each spider web came out.

spider web 2

Spider Web Craft

Spider web 1

Check out this spider craft easy enough for toddlers!

In the spirit of Halloween, we have been doing lots of nifty seasonal crafts. Much to my husband’s chagrin, we decided to do a spider craft. It came out pretty cute, so he was okay with it (LOL).  This craft was super easy, and my 3 year olds were able to do most of it on their own.

SUPPLIES:
Paper plate
Paint
2.5 feet of ribbon or string
Scissors
Glue
2 pieces of tape
Googly eyes
Black pipe cleaners
Milk jug lid

DIRECTIONS:
1. Cut small notches all the way around the plate, about 1″ apart.
2. Paint the plate any color of your choosing.  We went with reds and oranges for Halloween.
3. While the plate dries, paint your milk jug lid black and set it aside to dry.
4. When the plate is dry,use a piece of tape to attach one end of the string to the back of the plate. String it through the notches of the plate to create the spider web (using whatever pattern you choose).
5. Make sure the end of the string ends at the back of the plate.  Tape this end in place, too.
6. Cut the black pipe cleaners to the size you want for the legs.  I was running out of them, so our spiders only have 6 legs (1 pipe cleaner each cut into thirds).
7. Twist the pipe cleaners together so they are all attached.  Glue them to the bottom of the milk lid.  Once the glue dries you can bend them so they look more like legs.
8. Glue the googly eyes on top of the milk lid.
9. Decided where you want your spider to sit on its web.  Using the legs, bend the tips around the ribbon to hold him in place.

I used some left over ribbon scraps I had laying around to hang these up on the wall. The kids loved that they were able to do so much on their own.  They also loved how cute and unique each spider web came out.

spider web 2

Monster Meatloaf

Monster Meatloaf 3

Check out this festive twist on a traditional dish!

A while ago, a picture passed around Facebook and Pinterest of a monster meatloaf (or zombie or Pharoah or whatever else you may think it looks like).  So I decided to give it a try! I only had this picture of go off of, so I had to wing it:
monster-bacon-meatloaf
INGREDIENTS:
2 lbs ground beef
2 eggs
1 onion, split (1/2 chopped, the rest for garnish)
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 Tbs A1 steak sauce
2 Tbs ranch dressing
2 Tbs mustard
2 Tbs ketchup
1 cup bread crumbs
1 packet McCormick meatloaf seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper, TT
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Strips of bacon
DIRECTIONS:
1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the meat in a large bowl.
3. Toss all the remaining ingredients on top of the meat except the bacon and the onion for garnish; Mix well.
4. Transfer meat into a 9×13″ greased baking dish and shape into a loaf.  You want it to be large, smooth, and not too raised.
5. Place bacon over the meatloaf as you see in the picture.  After you have them all the way you want them, tuck the ends under the meatloaf.
6. Slice the remaining onion into chunks and place according to the picture.
Monster Meatloaf 1
7. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Monster Meatloaf 2
8. You can serve this as is (we do because of everything I put into it) or make it look more eerie by adding gravy or tomato sauce.

How to Create a Pumpkin Masterpiece

How to Create a Pumpkin Masterpiece
My very favorite thing about October is carving pumpkins!  To be honest, the kids don’t really even carve our pumpkins.  They clean them out and pick designs, but I create the masterpieces.  That is OUR family tradition.
I get a lot of compliments on my pumpkins.  So I will share with you how I get them to precise!
TOOLS I USE:
Newspaper
Bowls
Kitchen Knife
Pocket Knife
Nail File
Pumpkin Design
Thumb Tack
MY PROCESS:
1.If you are working inside, lay down a double layer of newspaper.  This will make for easy clean up!
2. Use a large kitchen knife to cut the top off.  This allows the process to be quick and smooth.
3. Have large bowls ready for the pumpkin “guts.”  When you are finished cleaning the pumpkins out, you can dump the bowls out or set them aside for picking out the pumpkin seeds.
4. Use a spoon to scrape the inside clean.  Decide which side you will be cutting pieces out of and scrape that side to be about 1/2″ to 1″ thick (less than 1/2″ makes it too flimsy and more than 1″ makes it very difficult for smaller details).
5. If you are using a printed design, tape it on with packing tape.  Scotch tape doesn’t stick very well, and duct tape leaves a sticky residue.
6. Once your design is on, use a thumbtack to poke holes along the black lines of the design.  Keep the holes close together.  This will be your guide in case the paper does happen to come off.
7. Use a pocket knife to cut along the dotted lines.  Cut the smallest details first, working your way up to the largest pieces.
8. As you cut pieces out, use a nail file to smooth out the hollowed areas.
9. Place the cut pieces into the pumpkin as you go.  This way, when you are finished, you can just dump the pumpkin over the garbage.
10. Roll up your newspaper and throw them away – see, easy clean up! Now all that is left to do is wash the items you used and light your pumpkin.
Now, display your masterpiece!
How to Create a Pumpkin Masterpiece 2
SHOW US YOUR MASTERPIECES!!!!

Toilet Paper Roll Bats

tp bats 1

Check out these cute and easy bats that even toddlers can make!

Halloween is coming up fast.  Ad some of you may know, I LOVE decorating for the holidays (Any holiday). My favorite decorations are ones made by my children, so I came up with these nifty little bats.

MATERIALS:
Cardboard Toilet paper tube (or paper towel tube cut in half)
Black construction paper
Black paint
2 googly eyes
Scissors
Clothespin
Glue

DIRECTIONS:
1. Paint your toilet paper tube and clothespin all black; set aside to dry.
2. While the paint is drying, take your black construction paper and fold it in half. Using the scissors, cut the shape of a wing on the crease so that when you unfold the paper, you have matching wings connected in the center (like butterfly wings).
3. Once the paint is dry on your tube, fold the top of it in on itself creating two points.  Glue the two folded pieces together. This will be the pointy ears for the bat.
4. Using the glue, attach the wings to the back of your tube.
5. Glue the googly eyes onto the front of the tube.
6. Glue the clothespin on the back, on top of the wings. This will be how you hang it up. Let the glue dry.

tp bats 2

Now you have a cute little bat that you can clip on just about anywhere. I love how easy this craft was and how cute all the bats came out.