Favorite Recipes

Chicken Taco Crunch Wraps

The best thing about tacos is that they’re so versatile! This is a fun variation that makes a very hearty, portable meal. This recipe is similar to the Crunchwrap Supremes you find at Taco Bell but with some changes to the ingredients. All ingredients are optional and flexible based on your personal taste.

  • Prep time: approx. 2-3 minutes per wrap
  • Cook time: approx. 6-10 minutes per wrap
  • Makes about 4 large wraps

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans of canned chicken breast
  • 1 8oz. brick of cream cheese (room temp)
  • About 4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Small can green chilies
  • About 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • Tostada shells (at least one for each wrap you plan to make)
  • Large flour burrito tortillas (the largest you can find)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Pico de Gallo (or just tomatoes)
  • Sour Cream
  • Refried beans (optional)
Most of the ingredients you’ll need to make delicious Crunch Wraps. Not pictured: lettuce, taco seasoning, optional beans.

Instructions:

  1. Open and drain water from canned chicken. Place all canned chicken in a large bowl with cream cheese and about 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese. (Cream cheese can be warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make mixing easier).
  2. Begin mixing ingredients with large spoon or spatula. This can also be done in a stand mixer to make things a lot easier.
  3. Mix in green chilies and taco seasoning with chicken mixture. Stir until all ingredients are evenly mixed.
  4. Create a work station with an assembly line for burrito tortilla > (opt beans) > chicken mixture > tostada shell > lettuce > pico > sour cream > shredded cheese > (opt tortilla circle).
  5. Place a burrito tortilla on a plate or cutting board.
  6. In the center of the burrito tortilla, (spread optional beans in a thin layer first) place about a cup of the chicken mixture- flatten and shape it to be about the size of the tostada shells.
  7. Place 1 tostada shell on top of chicken mixture.
  8. Place about 1 handful (or 1/2 cup) of shredded lettuce on top of tostada shell.
  9. Top lettuce with 1-2 Tablespoons of pico de gallo and 1-2 Tablespoons of sour cream.
  10. Top ingredients with about 1/4 cup shredded cheese (this will melt and work to seal the wrap during grilling).
  11. Fold one edge of the burrito tortilla up and over ingredients reaching for the middle on top of all the ingredients. *If it seems like your burrito tortilla will not reach to meet all edges in the middle, you can cut out circles from extra burrito tortillas using a cereal bowl to trace around with a sharp knife. These circles can then be used directly on top of the wrap ingredients before wrapping the burrito tortilla.* Continue to fold up the edges going around the wrap in one direction. You will end up with a wrap that is shaped like an octagon or something close to it. You can place a small salad plate on top of the wrap to keep it folded. See video below for example.
  12. Warm a large frying pan or a griddle or grill to medium heat. Oil or butter the warming surface.
  13. Carefully place wrap fold side down on your heated surface.
  14. Place a heat-resistant plate on top of the wrap as it is grilling to ensure it makes the most contact with the hot surface as possible.
  15. Heat the wrap for about 3-5 minutes depending on how hot your surface is. Use a spatula to tip up the edge of the wrap as it is cooking to check for doneness.
  16. Once desired doneness level is reached, carefully flip wrap over to other side and repeat grilling process. 3-5 minutes.
  17. Serve hot and enjoy!
Build a tower of deliciousness, one ingredient at a time.

Nutrition:

  • Serving size: 1 grilled wrap
  • 1 serving is approximately 141 Calories; 2.1g Fat; 1.1g Sat. Fat; 20.6mg Cholest.; 152mg Sodium; 28.7g Carbs; 0.4g Fiber; 17.4g Sugar; 2.6g Protein.
Favorite Recipes · Hmm, Pinteresting

Olive Garden Alfredo Recipe

Who doesn’t love pasta? Of course, some of us have to watch our intake because it’s easy to get carried away, but indulging once in a while is such a treat. Alfredo has always been a “treat” for me, a special meal that I look forward to. But I’m also very picky about the taste. It has to be just right. I’ve never found a jarred sauce or a recipe I like. Olive Garden’s Alfredo sauce has probably been my favorite for years. I know there are plenty of people who don’t like OG. That’s okay. But what you can’t deny is that fat and salt can really pump up the flavor in a dish.

Thanks to good ol’ Pinterest, I came across a recipe one night that claimed to be “Olive Garden’s Alfredo Recipe.” Out of sheer curiosity I read the comments left by other Pinterest users. Several of them were claiming that this recipe was incorrect because of one or two of the ingredients. Personally, I didn’t know any better, but I was willing to believe these keyboard warriors because several of them corroborated the story. Further down the comments, I found that someone had posted a comment claiming that Olive Garden actually provides many of their recipes on their website. RECORD SCRATCH. That was news to me. So I did some digging. I was salivating thinking that I could get ahold of the OG Alfredo recipe to make myself. At the same time I was worried that I’d have to get a wider front door put on my house once I ate my weight in Alfredo. Click HERE for the entire online catalog of Olive Garden’s recipes.

Sure enough, after some digging, I found a collection of Olive Garden’s recipes on their website. I scrolled and scrolled until I found the treasure I was digging for. Click HERE for the Olive Garden version, unaltered. Below, I have included the recipe with changes I made after the asterisks (*).

Ingredients

  • 3 oz wt butter *I used ½ cup salted butter or 1 full stick, only slightly more than their recipe calls for.
  • 1 Tbsp garlic *I used a fresh bulb rather than the pre-minced version I usually keep in my fridge for quick recipes and added probably 2 Tbsp because there’s no such thing as too much garlic in a recipe like this.
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 ½ cup milk *I ended up adding this last and only used ½ cup since I wanted my sauce to be a little thicker than the recipe calls for. Also, I used whole milk.
  • 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese *I used closer to 1 cup+ because I wanted the cheese to be the main thickening ingredient.
  • ½ cup romano cheese *I did the same thing as with the parm, 1 cup+.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • *I also added about 1 lb of chopped rotisserie chicken for protein.

Instructions

  1. Fried the chopped garlic in the butter until it started to become fragrant and the butter started to turn golden in color.
  2. I then added the flour and mixed it in to make a roux which would help thicken the sauce.
  3. After that was thoroughly mixed, I added the heavy cream and stirred it all until the coloring of the sauce was even.
  4. Then I added the cheeses and stirred until they melted evenly.
  5. After that, I added the milk, salt and pepper, tasting in between additions to make sure I didn’t over salt the recipe (which, in my opinion, is the only downfall of the Olive Garden recipe made AT the restaurant. It always seems too salty to me.)
  6. Finally, I added my chopped chicken and let everything simmer a bit until it reached my desired thickness.

Final Thoughts

In the end, the recipe was good. Very good. I’m glad I added the extra cheese and didn’t add the same amount of milk that the original recipe called for. It was so much richer but most likely with a lower sodium content than what you get in the restaurant. If I was to try anything different the next time around, I would sauté the chicken in the butter/garlic mixture at the beginning to help give it a little more flavor. When I made this recipe I was in a hurry so I didn’t get the chance to think everything through and use my instincts as much as I like to. If you don’t hear from me again after this post, it means I’ve eaten Alfredo until I burst. But don’t be sad. At least I died happy 🙂

Decorating a Home · Hmm, Pinteresting

Geeking Out Your Interior Design

Choosing wall colors, cabinet styles, furniture, decor, and making it all work together is hard enough. What about trying to define and capture your own style? Sure, you can cruise Pinterest for hours, days, years and save a million amazing ideas, but how do you take that collection and make it your own?

There’s a reason those Instagram pictures and Pinterest pins of farmhouse, boho, shabby chic home decor have thousands of shares and saves. They’re beautiful. They feel intentional and put together. Personally, I’m obsessed with many of those and strive to make my house look like the pictures I see online, but in reality, I know my house will never look like those. This might be for a few reasons. First of all, those pictures are staged and heavily edited. I know no one who has a family, especially kids, can live in a house that looks like that 24/7 and stay sane. I also know myself well enough to know that I always try to recreate the home decorating styles I see online but my personal style frequently creates an odd mashup that might not be Insta-worthy.

Decor examples from Pinterest (could not trace original author) using a neutral palette with some contrasting patterns or color. *Not my photos*

The common thing about most of those extremely popular decor styles is that most of them are based on a neutral palette. The main base color is usually a stark, clean white, and the majority of the large accent pieces are neutral browns, tans, and creams. Some designs incorporate black as the contrasting color, while some even go as far as to use a single, non-neutral color as an accent.

As much as I would love the look of a neutral palette, I tend to require a little more color in my personal designs. I do my best not to go overboard with color. A little goes a long way. That rule applies to all of the suggestions further in this post. That being said, some bold color choices can make for a playful and interesting aesthetic. Below, I have included a picture of the dining room wall I painted in my last house. I chose a bright teal because it is my favorite color, and I wanted to create a unique “pop” of color among our mostly neutral paint palette. Adding fun, geeky decor to your home is a nice way to hint at your style, but adding just the right color to a wall can brighten your day and put a smile on your face when you look at it.

A bold teal color I chose for my dining room wall. This became my favorite wall in the house because it breathed life into the otherwise neutral color palette and gave a beautiful color contrast to any artwork placed on it.

Getting to design your own interior space can be overwhelming, but it can also be freeing. Take into account the things you’re interested in. If that happens to be neutral, pattern heavy, boho-inspired, green spaces, then good news- there’s tons of inspiration for you online! But if you’re more like me and appreciate something a little more unique and a lot more geeky then I have some wonderful resources and ideas for you ahead.

“Our family is full of geeks. I can trace it directly to my geeky parents.”

Our family is full of geeks. I can trace it directly to my geeky parents. My husband and I have definitely passed it on to our kids. Because of this, I love finding ways to incorporate our personal, geeky style into our interior decoration. It can be tricky if you’re hoping to stay away from in-your-face, obvious fandom references. I have taken the time to compile several extremely geeky color palettes (found at the end of this article) that reflect different fandoms. These colors can be easily incorporated into your designs with subtle tricks such as decorative throw pillows, wall art, and thoughtfully placed knickknacks or more visible, yet aesthetically pleasing, hints like full colored walls, bedding, or murals.

These ideas should be used in small amounts. Too many of these ideas in one place can get a little too busy and quickly become tacky. So, try to spread the geekery throughout your house. It will be more like an Easter egg hunt for your guests to discover and less like a visually overwhelming mishmash from wall to wall. One way to hide geeky clues in plain sight is to add home decor items like the ones below. (All items can be found at ThinkGeek.) These items can easily be accents in rooms where they blend in with other regular decor. The red clock could be used in a farmhouse style kitchen as an interesting color contrast piece. The towels could be used as decorative hand towels, placed on top of solid color towels with similar palette. The constellation light could be a sweet feature on a guest room nightstand to brighten someone’s night.

Small decor pieces like these can easily be worked in to existing decor schemes to add geeky flair. (These items can be found on ThinkGeek.com)

Here is an example of geeky decor that can be added to even the most elegant dining room. These Harry Potter themed plate and flatware sets (also found at ThinkGeek) are a great way to hint at something without being too obvious. Don’t even mention their theme to your guests and see if they discover it for themselves!

Beautiful Harry Potter dinnerware and flatware can be an elegant way to geek up your dining space. (These items can be found on ThinkGeek.com)

If you happen to have a home theater or a movie viewing area, you can always find beautifully done, artistic posters that celebrate some of your favorite movies. The posters below are just an example of the great ones you can find on the internet. Nowadays, there is such a vast collection of artwork like these that you can use to hint at your fandoms rather than being blatant with an obvious movie poster. Take it a step further and put these artistic posters in wooden poster frames before hanging them. It will create an even more sophisticated and intentional look for your media room.

These posters would be beautiful in a family room or theater. What better way to showcase your favorite geeky movies than with these works of art? (These posters can be found on ThinkGeek.com)

Bedding doesn’t have to be boring. Adding some geeky bedding to your boudoir can allow you to sneak in some geek while allowing the rest of the room to be more neutral. Here are two good examples of geeky bedding that aren’t too flashy or juvenile. You could also carefully add in a themed pillow or two, nestled in with some matching, solid colored throw pillows.

These bedding sets are a fun way to use subtle, geeky prints in the bedroom. The example on the left is a Star Wars theme with TIE Fighters mixed in with the geometric pattern. The example on the right is a damask print using Harry Potter artwork for a more elegant approach. (Both sets found on ThinkGeek.com)

A bedroom is also a great place to make use of the fandom-based color palettes. For example, if you’re looking to hint at what Harry Potter house you belong to, you can always choose a color from the House’s palette, paint your walls with it and use the House’s secondary color as an accent in the decor. Here, I have provided two examples where I used the main color from one represented Hogwarts’ house (Ravenclaw in one example and Slytherin in another) and used the room’s decor as the secondary colors used in the Harry Potter movies. This is a neat way to use bold color schemes without overwhelming the visual aesthetics of the room. The remaining colors should stay neutral to keep the room from feeling too visually “heavy.”

Using Sherwin-Williams online color sample generator, I created two examples of room decor using Harry Potter House colors as wall paint and the secondary color in the room decor.

Using bold colors in your house doesn’t have to be scary. In our last house, my husband and I decided to incorporate our geeky personal touches into some of the most visible places. We researched the exact blue color of the TARDIS from Doctor Who so that we could paint our front door to match it. We wanted to make our front door look as much like the TARDIS as possible without being too obvious. So, we chose a door with windows at the top and used the bright blue paint color to give people that “hmm, this reminds me of something…” feeling every time they looked at it. We actually ended up loving the bright blue color so much that we decided to paint our powder room with the same color. It turned out great! It made that little room feel special and different without being out of place. Check out the photo of our TARDIS blue bathroom below.

We used Sherwin Williams 6811 – Honorable Blue as the paint color for our front door and powder room. This color was the closest color matching the TARDIS blue from Doctor Who.

Wall art can be a tricky decorating tool. So much of the wall art that you can buy in stores looks like stuff you see on the walls of a hospital or dentist’s office. Finding artwork that adds a little bit of geekery into your decor without being blatant can be tough too. Here are a couple examples I found that could work in a pinch. Below, you can see the first is a set of prints based on the art found in the newest Zelda video game, Breath of the Wild. That game has amazing visuals, but I liked that this art set was simple and graphic. Add these into a boho-feel room, and they’ll blend right in. You could even convince your guests that you purchased them abroad, haha! The second piece of art is a clever take on a classic piece of artwork. I love this one because it has a lot of color and visual interest. You could pull colors from this painting to add into your room in other decor pieces- pillows, lamp shades, rugs, etc. to bring the whole room together and keep this painting from standing out too much. Both of these examples have a lot of versatility in helping you visually pull a room together with simple decor using either style or color scheme.

Two great examples of artwork you can hang and enjoy in your home. Guests might not even notice the geeky hints!

And don’t forget about decorating outside your house! The front porch is the first thing people see when they come to visit you. If you’re like me and enjoy letting guests know a little about you before coming into your house, a geeky doormat is a great addition. To accent our Doctor Who door color, we found a great doormat that read “It’s Bigger on the Inside.” This was such a fun conversation piece when other “Whovians” would visit our home and recognize the geeky decor hints. Especially since our house really did look bigger on the inside!

Overall, there are a lot of possibilities and ways you can hint at your fandoms with your interior decor. It takes a light, creative touch. This is a subject I could write a whole book on if I had the time! And no, I don’t make any money off of my recommendation of ThinkGeek, but if you’re looking for anything from decor to gifts to clothes that are geeky in nature, that’s the place to go.

As promised, here are my fandom-based color palettes below. Each color has been assigned a hexadecimal color code (or hex code) that can be found at the bottom of the palette. You can read my previous post where I outline several websites I use when creating color palettes like these. These hex codes are used on several of the sites listed in my post to correspond to specific colors. With these hex codes and the websites I provide, you should be able to replicate these colors in other places for your own use.

Feel free to refer to these palettes when needing geeky color combinations, but please cite me as author. I put in a lot of time and effort developing these collections. Also, I would love to hear any suggestions you have of other fandoms for which I should make color palettes. If I use your suggestion, I will credit you in the next color palette post!

A few of my other favorite fandoms. The Harry Potter colors were borrowed from somewhere else (author unknown) because I felt that they were already pretty accurate. The rest of the palettes are my creations, most sampled directly from pictures of these fandoms.
Decorating a Home · Hmm, Pinteresting

5 Best Online Resources for Color Palette Creation

Over the years, I’ve collected many reliable resources for color sampling, color matching, and palette creation. Deciding colors for your home or design projects can be overwhelming when you don’t have somewhere to start. As a graphic designer, these resources are invaluable to me, but I have found even more uses for them as I help design our dream home. Here is the list I have compiled of the most useful online resources for any of your color projects.

Here’s a screen capture of an Encycolorpedia color page. This is only a small sample of what each page details for any color.

Encycolorpedia is a website that I came upon accidentally one night and has since become one of my go to sites for color information. I usually deal in hex codes (six digit codes, using letters and numbers, that represent each color a computer can understand) for colors in my graphic design, or Pantone colors (a collection of color swatches widely used and recognized over a large variety of color-based industries).

Encycolorpedia works like a color search engine where you can input a hex code, Pantone code, color name, or paint name/code, and it finds information on that color for you. Even if you only have one of those designations for your color, it will find and display all of the others PLUS many other pieces of information about your color all in one place. It finds things like the shades and tints of your original color, different color codes from various paint companies, and what your color looks like when seen with different types of colorblindness, just to name a few. I’m totally blown away by the amount of information Encycolorpedia can find about a single color. I’ve already found so many uses for this website, I’m amazed it’s free.

Paletton is another neat website that offers you a color wheel with movable sliders giving you complete control in finding color palettes based on monochromatic, adjacent, triad, tetrad, or freestyle (2, 3, or 4 colors) colors. Each color palette then gives you tinted and shaded versions of each color, plus the individual color codes for each color. This resource is great for choosing colors that can work well together based on color theory. You can also randomize a color palette or give it a few parameters from which to find you different palette options. I’m so excited to use this site more and learn all of its capabilities.

This is the layout for the Paletton website. The lefthand color wheel has several interactive sliders that give you control over your color picking.

Sherwin-Williams also has a great site for choosing colors. Of course, you’re restricted to their list of paint colors, but their list is pretty extensive. You’re bound to find something very close to what you’re looking for. But if you’re worried they won’t have the perfect color for you, don’t! Sherwin Williams offers a paint color matching service. Take a swatch from any other paint brand to them and they can match it perfectly using their signature paint recipe.

Their site offers a large, easy-to-navigate color palette, and each color gives you a visual example of what that color looks like in a fairly realistic setting. You can change the image used in this visual example, you can even use your own image, and the computer will do its best to superimpose the chosen color on your image. This feature works fairly well, but the more busy and complicated your image is, the harder it is to get the computer to put the color in the right place. Each color also comes with suggestions for similar colors, as well as suggestions for complementary color palettes. This resource is great for helping you find colors that work well in your home. Check out how beautiful their color palette looks below.

The Sherwin Williams color palette allows you to click any color to learn more about it or get access to paint swatch information.

Pinterest is such a great idea resource. It’s such an easy way to find thousands of ideas for nearly anything. The fact that it’s so visual makes finding color palettes that fit your interests fast and simple. There are board after board of color combinations to choose from. The best thing about these color boards is that most of them have been compiled by real people. There is something special and beautiful about the amazing color combinations people create. Sure, a computer can give you an accurate color palette based on color theory, but the human eye, personal experiences, and aesthetic preferences make for some very beautiful combinations. Just try searching for “color palette” in the search bar or click the link I have provided to see my personal collection of color palettes. Below, I’ve included a visual example of how you can collect color palettes on Pinterest. Just scrolling through hundreds of these beautiful palettes will spark so much creativity in you!

A snapshot of some of the color palettes I keep on one of my idea boards on Pinterest.
An example of how AskVal picks colors from your pins.

My last color resource is one that works in combination with Pinterest. It’s called AskVal. Valspar is a specific paint brand that developed a neat app that takes any of your Pinterest pins and turns it into a color palette. It can even sample colors from a whole board to give you a color palette. This is helpful if you’ve found a specific pin or board that you love but don’t have access to any color sampling programs like Photoshop. AskVal will give you five sampled colors, one of which is adjustable with an “eyedropper” tool, allowing you to sample a color by clicking anywhere on the image. Then each color on the palette gives you details about what paint brands have a close match, the paint color designation number, and which retailer carries that paint. This app is a lot of fun to play with. It is fairly intelligent in its color choices, which can save you a lot of guesswork.

Altogether, these resources create a powerhouse of color choice, color matching, color theory, and palette creation. These sites are great to have bookmarked in your favorites for those times when you need help picking out colors and don’t want to stand around fumbling with paint chips in the hardware store.

Favorite Recipes

Breakfast Scramble

I love this recipe. It’s quick, easy AND delicious. You can eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner! We usually treat this as one of our breakfast-for-dinner recipes. It’s definitely comfort food; perfect for a cold night or any time you want something that can easily feed a whole family in about 30 minutes. It is easiest to cook this on a griddle or in a very large frying pan.

INGREDIENTS

Most of the ingredients needed for the breakfast scramble.
  • 1 package/bag of uncooked shredded hash browns (about 1-1/4lbs or 20oz)
  • Eggs (1-2 per person being served)
  • Milk (about 1/4 cup per 8 eggs)
  • Garlic salt for sprinkling
  • Pepper for sprinkling
  • Dried parsley for sprinkling
  • 1 medium onion (any color works)
  • Your favorite cheese, shredded works best
  • 1 package bacon (or preferred breakfast meat, about 12oz)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat griddle or pan to medium high heat (I set my griddle to 350 degrees specifically). No need to pre-grease pan because bacon will cook first, and bacon grease can be used for the remainder of foods. If other breakfast meats are used instead, grease griddle or pan accordingly.
  2. Dice onion into about 1/4″ pieces.
  3. Remove bacon from package, keeping pieces together (making it easier to cut). Using a sharp knife, make vertical slices through bacon slab about every 1/2″ until all bacon is cut into pieces about 1/2″ x 1″ pieces. It’s not necessary to separate the pieces, as they will come apart while cooking. *See photo below for example.*
  4. Break eggs into a bowl big enough for all of them plus milk and seasonings. Add milk, some garlic salt, pepper and parsley. I usually eyeball amounts, but to help you estimate- I used 8 eggs for 4 servings (2 eggs per person), about 1/4 cup milk, 1/2+ tsp garlic salt, 1/4+ tsp pepper, 1 Tbsp parsley. Mix until eggs are beaten and all ingredients are evenly mixed in.
  5. Add bacon to heated griddle/pan. Cook bacon until it’s thoroughly cooked. Remove bacon from griddle/pan and set aside on a plate with paper towels to soak up excess grease.
  6. Add cut up onion pieces to griddle/pan using the bacon grease already in place. Brown onion until it is translucent and caramelized.
  7. Remove onion from heated surface and set onion aside on a paper towel covered plate like bacon. Bacon and onion can share a plate at this point if necessary.
  8. With griddle/pan still sufficiently greased, add hash browns. Flatten hash browns with a spatula so that the majority of them are making contact with the heated surface. Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper over the hash browns. Let them cook for about 5-7 minutes on one side before flipping and doing the same on the other side. (5-7 minutes on each side while keeping close watch on them as to not let them burn).
  9. Once hash browns reach desired doneness, add bacon and onions back to the grill/pan.
  10. Slowly and carefully add beaten egg mixture into the hash brown, bacon, onion pile. Begin mixing everything together while also letting the egg cook on the hot surface. The egg mixture will begin to hold the hash brown mixture together.
  11. Once egg is completely cooked, turn off heat and cover mixture with shredded cheese. There should still be enough residual heat to melt the cheese. Enjoy while still hot!
The three stages of the bacon for this recipe. Whole, chopped, and cooked.

This meal can be easily reheated and enjoyed again IF there are leftovers!

Nutrition

  • Serving size: as cooked with 8 eggs serves about 4 people.
  • 1 serving is approximately 498 Calories; 25.2g Fat; 11.1g Sat. Fat; 468mg Cholest.; 829mg Sodium; 38.9g Carbs; 4.4g Fiber; 7.6g Sugar; 35.1g Protein.
Favorite Recipes · Hmm, Pinteresting

Keto “bread”

I don’t follow KETO specifically but I try to substitute proteins for carbs whenever I can. My body seems to function better that way. And I stay fuller longer. I found this recipe a couple months back and saved it to my healthy recipes to try Pinterest board.

I have found many pins using this same recipe so I have no way to credit the original recipe creator but I will leave the original pin as I found it for proper credit to that pinner.

Here is the original PIN I found next to my finished product:

My Attempt

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Garlic salt sprinkled on top before baking

I used the convection setting on my oven which puts it at 375°.

They only needed 15 minutes to cook. Any longer might have made them too crispy.

PROS:

  • Easy to make
  • Easy to double or triple recipe to make more
  • Very fast prep time
  • I could successfully pretend this was bread
  • Very versatile

CONS:

  • Could be bland without some spice for flavoring which is why I sprinkled garlic salt on it.
  • Needs to be eaten soon after it’s made. Doesn’t age well.

In the future, I plan to use this recipe to make:

  • Bagels
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese sticks

Nutrition

  • Serving size: 1 whole regular-sized bagel (2 halves) or 1 regular-sized hamburger bun (top and bottom).
  • 1 serving is approximately 271 Calories; 20.8g Fat; 11.5g Sat. Fat; 156mg Cholest.; 705mg Sodium; 1.5g Carbs; 0g Fiber; 0.7g Sugar; 15.4g Protein.
Cleaning and Organizing · Life Hacks

Cleaning Hack: Dirty Stroller

I wouldn’t call myself cheap, but I appreciate a bargain. Especially when it comes to equipment and clothing for my children. I still end up spending plenty on them, but when I can save a few bucks here and there, it means I can splurge on the more fun stuff.

Getting hand-me-downs and re-gifts is a great place to start when you’re expecting a child, but as you get further in, you start to realize how much stuff you actually need for a baby. Of course, there are some things that are more of a luxury and not a necessity. But there are some items that end up on every baby registry or wishlist. A stroller is one of them.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second baby, I started to think about what life would look like with a newborn AND a toddler. How do I keep track of both of them at the same time when we’re out and about? How do I get both of them from one place to another outside of a vehicle? It all started to sound overwhelming, but I was determined to make the transition from one to two as easy on myself as possible. I struggled with anxiety when I became a mom the first time, and I was intent on preventing a repeat situation.

Dreaming of a Two-Seater

I told myself years ago (before I had kids) that I never wanted to have to juggle a double-stroller. Well, that bit of pride went right out the window when I discovered multi-function strollers. They now have double strollers (for two children) that convert into different seating functions. You can have two seats for toddler-sized kids, or two spots for baby carriers (good for twins), a spot for an older kid to stand and hold on, or any variation of those options.

My bargain stroller almost totally clean!

Since I love a bargain, I was determined not to pay full price for one of these luxury baby vehicles. I saw how the stroller I had for my first child got beat up, used heavily, and tossed around, and this made me less excited to sink several hundred dollars into something that received that much wear and tear. So, I started bargain shopping.

Thankfully, there are as many people trying to get rid of their old child-rearing gear as there are trying to buy it, so I had plenty of options to choose from. Once I narrowed down the make and model of the stroller I wanted (based on reviews I read on new ones combined with input from other moms), I jumped on the Facebook Marketplace and searched my surrounding area for the stroller I wanted.

I lucked out and found one for a fraction of the cost of a new one. It was practically free! I knew this most likely meant that it had some wear and tear, but at the price they were asking, I could hardly be picky. Once I picked up the item, I found that it wasn’t so much wear and tear that I should have been concerned about but more dirt and grime. Yuck! I know kids are messy, stinky, sticky, icky, cute, little creatures but this stroller had seen some action!

I had seen some Pinterest post months before about soaking a stroller in a bathtub filled with water and soap, but I wasn’t quite willing to submerge my stroller in water. Plus, I wanted to be able to let it dry out completely, which seemed tricky when washing it inside the house. Luckily, I was pregnant with an end-of-summer baby so I had great weather for my experiment.

The Nitty and Not-so-Gritty

I decided to wash my not-so-new stroller like I used to wash my car. (I say “used to” because I just go through the car wash now…I don’t have the time or energy to wash my own car anymore.) I cleaned the stroller in my driveway with a hose fixed with a spray nozzle that had multiple spray options. Here’s the breakdown of my method:

Scrub brushes like this make the job easier.
  1. Open up stroller completely and remove any loose debris. Turn it upside down and shake it out if need be. Vacuum it out! There are a lot of methods that could work for this part.
  2. Remove anything on the stroller that you don’t want getting wet. This could be any bags or extra things hanging off the stroller that don’t need cleaning.
  3. Open/extend all canopies as they will also be getting a scrub down and need to be easily accessible.
  4. Get a hose hooked up to water, preferably with a spray nozzle that offers at least one higher pressure setting.
  5. Spray the heck out of that stroller. Get every nook and cranny. Use the high pressure setting to blast stains and grimy surfaces. *Watch out for flying fishy crackers!*
  6. Using regular dish soap and a scrubby brush (I used the kind I use on dishes, and it worked fabulously), scrub every surface of that stroller until you get a decent lather all over.
  7. Using the high pressure hose setting, spray off all of the soapy surfaces until water runs clear.
  8. Check surfaces for any necessary re-scrubbing.
  9. Once stroller is clean of soap and dirt, leave in a warm, dry area or in the sun to dry.
  10. ***Don’t leave the stroller in the sun too long because some material colors could fade. Make sure to spin the stroller around every 15 minutes or so to speed up drying in the sun. Also, don’t leave a wet stroller in a warm, dark place or you could cause mold to grow on it. Similarly, don’t fold up the stroller if it is wet or even damp for the same reason. Fold it up once the material surfaces are COMPLETELY dry.***

You may need to go over some sections more than once. Seriously, kids are gross! But so much fun, amirite?! I purposely used just regular dish soap for this task because it is a mild detergent. I’m sure you could use something else, but I wouldn’t suggest it. You don’t know how some cleaners could affect the integrity of the stroller’s surfaces. You wouldn’t want to weaken materials or corrode the stroller’s moving parts.

This process took me maybe 30 minutes to complete, and it changed something that was garage-sale-quality into consignment-shop-quality for only minimal effort and no extra money. This process could be used on things like playpens, baby seats, high chairs, etc. But you SHOULD NOT use this process on car seats, as car seats have very strict rules on cleaning so that their structural integrity and safety are not compromised. Please do your research or ask a qualified car seat safety specialist for the proper methods of cleaning a car seat.

Building a Home · Home Life

Building Your Dream Home: Floor Plan Design Process

My husband and I moved in together when we got married. We had just purchased a home that was big enough to grow a family and had everything we wanted. It was a dream come true. What we didn’t see coming and couldn’t predict was that the city we chose to start a life in would change drastically and cause us to rethink our entire family plan.

We started looking at options to move, hoping to relocate far enough away from our current city but stay within the same state. I started shopping for houses, looking at different cities and towns outside of where we were currently living. Due to certain circumstances, we knew that we couldn’t make another mortgage purchase for a couple years so we had time to take things slowly and figure out our plans piece by piece.  

Even with the long and flexible timeline stretched out before us, we quickly became overwhelmed with the size and complexity of our possible move. On top of that, the issues within our current city were pushing us out more and more. Was there a way that we could speed up our timeline and escape as soon as possible? Then came a big “what if” question. When I first asked it, I thought for sure it would be immediately shot down. It’s crazy! Preposterous! We don’t have the money for that! Etc. Etc.

What if we could buy a piece of land and build our dream home over an extended period of time? Surprisingly, the question didn’t fall flat. We were both quiet for a few minutes trying to poke holes in the idea with the realities of our situation. But we couldn’t! So we began trying to figure out how one goes about building their dream house.

Step one was to buy a piece of land. For the sake of keeping this post at an abbreviated length, I’ll just say that over the course of several months we found the perfect piece of land and made the purchase. I may get into details of land purchasing in a different post.

The next step that we needed to figure out was how to design our dream home and turn it into a drawing that a builder could actually use. Here are the things I learned along the process:

Step One: Gather Ideas

I started by brainstorming with my husband a couple lists, defining all of the things we wanted to have in our dream house. Number of bedrooms, bathrooms, floors, special use rooms, special features. No matter how ridiculous they seemed, we wrote them down. Once I had those lists, I started to gather visual examples for the ideas on those lists.

An example of my Pinterest boards where I collected and organized my home design ideas.

I started with Pinterest. On Pinterest, I was able to create pin boards for all the rooms, features, and visual aesthetics we wanted. On those boards, I collected as many examples I could find. It also helped me find new and different ideas. I also found that there are thousands of floor plan links to look through for good starting points. Pinterest also has a function that suggests similar visuals, so if you find a particular type of floor plan that you like, you can find many variations of it there. This is how I found the original floor plan after which we modeled our design. Of course, each floor plan has copyrights, so you’ll have to make significant changes to any that you choose or pay a fee for the right to use it.

Step Two: Draw Up Some Floor Plans

Regardless of how you begin to assemble your floor plan, it can be a very helpful starting point just to start sketching ideas. After searching Pinterest for floor plans, I took a few that fit most of our requirements and combined them to start with. I used a couple methods for doing this. The first was to grab some good ol’ fashioned graph paper and hand-draw up some rough plans. Put rooms next to other rooms. See how they fit and flow together. I used a light table (you can also use a window with light coming through it) to stack the floors on top of one another to see how they line up.

Another option for drawing up floor plans is to try out the many different home design apps that exist. I tried several. Always try the free versions first to see if you like them. None of them are perfect, but many of them are helpful. Depending on your level of dedication and time available, these apps can be very useful for visualizing your floor plan ideas.

Here are some things to keep in mind when designing or choosing your floor plans:

  1. The plans that you initially design will be VERY different from the plans you end up with from a designer. This is not a bad thing. Just be prepared to compromise and change.
  2. Hallways are a huge waste of square footage and can drive up the cost of your house.
  3. Consider the layout of your land. Which way does the sun rise and set? Where are your views? If your land gets significant wind storms or road noise, make sure to place rooms in your design methodically based on those (and other) environmental factors.
  4. Are there going to be baby rooms/nurseries in this house? Consider placing those rooms far away from the noisier/high traffic rooms like the kitchen, living room, garage (due to garage door noise), theater/game/play room, etc.
  5. If your land is sloped, consider putting in a finished daylight basement.
  6. Roofing can be one of the most expensive parts of building a home. If you can have less square footage to cover in roofing, it could save you money. As an example- try to design multiple, stacked floors rather than a sprawling rambler-style house.

Step Three: Find a Designer/Architect

Something I learned early into our design process was that you need someone to draw up your blueprints regardless of how intricately you’ve drawn up your floor plans. There are varying levels of how much a designer provides you for your build process. This depends on the specific design firm and what they offer for their services. A designer and architect are generally the same thing, but they may refer to themselves as one or the other. Either way, a designer/architect is there to take your ideas and make them into something that works visually.

One of the many versions of our floor plans.

They usually have experience in knowing how a house should flow and what ideas work and what ideas are not worth considering. It is in your best interest to take their advice. Of course, I can’t speak for every designer out there, but you should choose one who has had a proper education and can show you a portfolio of work that fits with what you’d like for your house. They should be able to answer your questions, interpret your ideas, and steer you in a direction that gets you well on your way to building your dream home.

The designer we chose offered some very thorough job packages that covered everything from the exterior and interior design processes as well as the civil engineering and permits. We chose this because this was our first experience with the home building process, and we wanted to make sure that things were being done right.

Additionally, civil engineering is one of the most important parts of your home’s design process. Some design firms may offer this service in-house, but some may not. If they don’t, you’ll have to find a separate civil engineer. A civil engineer is the one who takes your visual house plans (from the designer/architect) and turns them into something that actually functions. They make separate plans for your lighting, your vent systems, plumbing, electrical, roofing structure, etc. These plans are necessary for your builders, which we will talk about more in a future post.

A few things to keep in mind during your design phase:

  1. Be very clear with your designer/architect on what their prices include. You might be surprised to find later on that something like civil engineering or permitting could be a separate charge all together.
  2. Listen to the suggestions of the designer. They should have the skills and experience to answer all of your questions and concerns. They also know when something just isn’t possible or might be out of your price range.
  3. Make sure you talk with your designer about what your home building price range is. Be very honest with them about how much you are looking to spend on the actual building of your home. They will then be able to keep your designs within that range.
  4. Know that there may be a lot of revisions and back and forth during this part of the process. Be patient and know that you’re that much closer to perfection.
  5. Be very honest and verbal about your questions and concerns. You need to get your plans exactly how you want them, and you cannot assume that your designer knows  what you’re picturing in your head.
  6. Find a designer who is familiar with the permit processes and code requirements for the specific county your house will be built in. Different counties have different requirements to pass inspection, and if your designer doesn’t catch them all the first time, it could lead to expensive rework.
  7. It is possible to find a designer who runs permits for you. This is very helpful if you are unfamiliar with the process. They will know what permits need to be filed and when and can help make sure those are completed on time.

In the end, this process should be fun and exciting. You should begin to see your ideas turned into real plans. Plans you can hold and show other people. It makes a huge difference to do your research first. Know who you are doing business with because you will be spending a lot of time and money on the design process. This is also an area of the process that you don’t want to skimp on. Being cheap with the design plans can cause a lot of rework and could end up costing you more in the long run.

An example of something your designer might be able to provide you alongside your floor plans.
Favorite Recipes

Crock-Pot Chili

This chili is a recipe I have been making for years now. It changes a little each time depending on how many of each item we have laying around. I don’t like to waste food, so I find ways to incorporate unclaimed items into my recipes. The recipe below is the most common version that I make. There are many options for changes or substitutions that I will note below the recipe. Look for the * symbol for specific notes. It’s an easy recipe. The most time consuming part is cutting up the vegetables.

  • Prep time: approx. 30 minutes
  • Cook time: on low 6-8hrs, on high 4hrs
Most of the main ingredients for Crock-Pot Chili
  • 1 lb ground turkey*
  • About 1 lb cubed steak*
  • 1 medium yellow onion*
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional for spice)*
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz.)
  • 1 can kidney beans (15 oz.)
  • 2 -15 oz. cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 16 oz. chicken broth*
  • 3 cloves of garlic or 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp Himalayan Pink Salt*
  • 2 bay leaves
The spices used in the Crock-Pot Chili recipe
  1. On medium heat, brown and crumble ground turkey in a frying pan (using a little oil to grease the pan).
  2. Trim fat from cubed steak and cut steak down to small pieces- about 1″ cubed or smaller.
  3. Using high heat and an oiled frying pan, sear (brown) each side of the steak pieces but try not to cook them all the way through. The Crock-Pot will do the rest of the cooking and this will keep the steak pieces tender.
  4. Cut onion, red and green pepper, and optional jalapeño into small pieces.
  5. Add all ingredients (except the bay leaves) to the Crock-Pot. With a large spoon, stir ingredients until evenly mixed.
  6. Tuck the bay leaves into the chili alongside the inside of the pot.
  7. Cook in the Crock-Pot on Low for 6-8 hours or on High for 4 hours. Stir ingredients occasionally but it’s not necessary.

Notes:

*This recipe calls for ground turkey but you can substitute ground beef or even take it out entirely for a vegetarian option.

*This meat is also not necessary for the option of a vegetarian chili.

*I typically use a sweeter yellow onion but any type will do. White onions are also a good option but typically yield a stronger onion-taste.

*The jalapeño is totally optional but is a great addition if you like a little bit of spice. Some jalapeños are spicier than others. Sometimes you can find mild jalapeños. You can add these but they usually won’t be spicy enough to notice in the chili. One “hot” jalapeño is a good amount of spice for this recipe. But feel free to add as much or as little as you want!

*For the chicken broth, I usually use scoops of condensed broth paste dissolved in hot water but you can also use bouillon cubes dissolved or already prepared broth from a package instead. It’s all a matter of choice and convenience.

*Himalayan pink salt has less sodium than table salt. If you have to substitute table salt, make sure to only add a teaspoon or two and possibly just add more to taste after it cooks.

Nutrition:

  • Servings: there are about 15 servings measured with a regular sized ladle.
  • 1 serving is approximately 178 Calories; 1.8g Fat; 0.2g Sat. Fat; 14.7mg Cholest.; 465mg Sodium; 24.7g Carbs; 5.5g Fiber; 8.1g Sugar; 18.5g Protein.
Favorite Recipes

No Oil Banana Bread

This is one of my family’s favorite recipes…to eat! It is made with yogurt in place of oil or butter. The end result is a very moist, spongy banana bread. It’s so addicting, especially once you realize there are fewer calories with the yogurt substitute. Muahahaha! Look for the * symbol for notes and options noted at the end of the recipe.

  • Prep time: approx. 15 minutes
  • Cook time: approx. 35-45 min for bread, 15-20 min for large muffins, 12-15 min for mini muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup sugar*
  • 6 oz (3/4 cup) vanilla yogurt*
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large medium ripe bananas*
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk (optional)*
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups mini chocolate chips (optional)*
  • Brown sugar for sprinkling
No Oil Banana Bread Ingredients (without buttermilk)

Instructions:

  1. Before you turn your oven on, remove all but the bottom rack. These need to be cooked on the bottom rack so at least leave enough room to place your pans on the lowest rack in your oven.
  2. Turn your oven on to 350°
  3. Butter or non-stick spray a 13×9 pan or 2 9×9 pans. This recipe can also be made into muffins- see the note below*
  4. Pour the mini chocolate chips into the bottom of your pan(s). Line the bottom evenly so that you cannot see the pan.* This will bake onto the bottom of the bread like a delicious, chocolate crust.
  5. In a stand mixer, mix sugar and yogurt until smooth.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well in-between.
  7. Add bananas, buttermilk (opt.), and vanilla. Mix well.
  8. Mix in flour one cup at a time, mixing well in-between.
  9. Add salt and baking soda. Mix until smooth.
  10. Carefully pour batter in to pan(s) while not disturbing the chocolate chips. Make sure to divide the batter evenly between the pans if you are using more than one.
  11. Sprinkle desired amount of brown sugar over the top of the batter-filled pan(s).
  12. Cook for between 35-45 minutes depending on your oven. It is best to check doneness with a toothpick at about 30 minutes and every 5 minutes after that until the toothpick comes out clean.

Notes:

*I usually use cane sugar rather than white sugar but both should work the same.

*I use a small container of vanilla bean yogurt but I have also tried using the same amount of plain greek yogurt as a substitute and it worked just as well but required an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract for flavor (2 tsp vanilla total).

*You want bananas that are very ripe but I have used bananas of varying ripeness. The difference is- the riper they are the sweeter and more banana-y the bread tastes.

*The buttermilk is labeled as optional because sometimes I put it in my recipe and sometimes I leave it out. The recipe seems to cook similarly either way but cooking it with the buttermilk adds even more moisture. Without the buttermilk it seems to be plenty moist and you wouldn’t notice it wasn’t in there.

*Chocolate chips are an optional ingredient and 2 cups is an approximate measurement because you can really add as much or as little as you’d like. You can also mix the chips into the batter rather than lining the pan with them. It’s all a matter of opinion.

*MUFFINS- spray and line 1-12 cup or 1-24 mini cup muffin pan(s) as you would large pans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes checking the doneness the same as you would in pans, adding 5 minutes at a time until the toothpick comes out clean.

Nutrition:

  • Servings as bread: 32, servings as mini muffins: 24, servings as regular muffins: 12
  • Based on 24 serving mini muffins baked with optional buttermilk: 1 serving is approximately 141 Calories; 2.1g Fat; 1.1g Sat. Fat; 20.6mg Cholest.; 152mg Sodium; 28.7g Carbs; 0.4g Fiber; 17.4g Sugar; 2.6g Protein.
Finished product!