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Posts tagged ‘reviews’

Homemade Pretzel Bites

I was just telling some friends how busy my schedule has been lately. I am sad I haven’t been able to post much of the things on my mind but I have to stop and post about this.

While folding an endless pile of towels the other day I was also watching Undercover Boss which featured the Philly Pretzel Factory. Lets just say it was a mouth watering episode! So it got me thinking that although I am not the best cook and certainly not the best at making bread products they made it look very easy to make pretzels. I got online and found a recipe that looked simple enough for me to try making pretzel bites last night.

The dough was very easy to make using my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. I let it rise like it suggested and then got my son involved (after much hand washing) with helping me roll out the dough into the long strips. After cutting them into small bite size pieces they simply are dunked into boiling water for about 30 seconds, placed on a greased cookie sheet, brushed with an egg wash mixture and heavy salt and then they are ready to bake. Of course it smelled amazing but I was pleasantly suprised at how they tasted! Mine didn’t come out looking as amazing as the photo but maybe with time I can master that too. The recipe also said you can do cinnamon and sugar instead of salt but I also think it is worth trying with butter and parmesean cheese!  The recipe also has suggestions for dipping sauces. I had honey mustard on hand but my husband made an olive oil and Italian herb sauce too.

Click here for the recipe:  http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/homemade-soft-pretzel-bites/

What other spices, variations or sauces would be good on these pretzel bites?

Prescription Drugs worth possible Side Effects?

Certainly there are many conditions where the positive attributes of a drug outweigh the possible negative side effects. My thoughts today point towards times when the prescribed drug is for something more minor that certainly makes you question whether risking side effects is worth the benefits of the drug.

We see more and more commercials advertising their drugs for certain medical conditions. All are required by law to list possible side effects. Have you noticed those that seem to take more of the commercial to talk about the side effects then the actual drug and it’s benefits? Comedian Tim Hawkins does a hilarious skit of this very topic. 

Here is another great example: I just heard a commercial on the radio yesterday for Nuvigil. This is being advertised to help those with Excessive Sleepiness(ES) due to Shift Work Disorder (SWD). Yes this is an actual diagnosed disorder. In all fairness I have worked an overnight shift for almost 15 years so I can certainly understand all the symptoms of SWD since shift work often leads to sleep disorders. Our bodies natural instinct is to be sleeping not working during the night and be active and not asleep during the day. Lack of proper sleep can cause someone to lose their focus and even reduce their ability to function. There is an increased risk of accidents due to sleepiness. Many become more irritable or have reduced ability to participate socially. Sleepiness can also effect their overall job performance. Certainly there is an increased risk for worsening a previously diagnosed medical condition. There may be a benefit from this drug in extreme cases but what are the possible side effects? (this list taken directly from Nuvigil.com)

  • What are possible side effects of NUVIGIL?

    • Stop taking NUVIGIL and call your doctor or get emergency help if you get any of the following serious side effects:Common side effects of NUVIGIL are headache, nausea, dizziness, and trouble sleeping. These are not all the side effects of NUVIGIL.
      • Mental (psychiatric) symptoms, including: depression, feeling anxious, sensing things that are not really there, extreme increase in activity (mania), thoughts of suicide, aggression, or other mental problems
      • Symptoms of a heart problem, including: chest pain, abnormal heart beat, and trouble breathing
    • Tell your doctor if you get any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. Talk to your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

    What should I avoid while taking NUVIGIL?

    • Do not drive a car or do other dangerous activities until you and your doctor know how NUVIGIL affects you.
    • Avoid drinking alcohol.

    What should I tell my doctor before starting NUVIGIL?

    • Tell your doctor about all of your health conditions including if you have: history of mental health problems (including psychosis), heart problems or had a heart attack, high blood pressure, liver or kidney problems, a history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, or are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.
    • Tell your doctor about all of the medicines you take. Women who use hormonal birth control may have a higher chance of getting pregnant, while taking and for one month after stopping NUVIGIL. Talk to your doctor about other birth control methods while taking NUVIGIL.
So let’s recap. First thing that stands out to me is the “trouble sleeping”. Does that seem weird to anyone else since the problem to begin with is a sleep disorder leading to excessive sleepiness? Certainly other possible side effects are common with most drugs like headache, nausea, dizziness, etc. The other thing that stood out to me though that is a huge red flag is mental (psychiatric) symptoms including seeing things that are not really there, aggression and thoughts of suicide. What about possible heart problems? Being unable to drive a car driving a car until you know the effects of the drug can be a problem for many as they still have work and family responsibilities. Do any of those seem like something you want to gamble with?
I truly am thankful for all the medical resources available and the continual advancements in research that improve our lives. I will say again that there are many conditions that require proper medication and in those cases the benefits surley outweigh the side effects. For those people just looking for a magic pill for all your ailments maybe a closer look at the side effects is needed. I mean seriously if you have to take another pill to help with the side effects created by the first pill is it worth it? We really do not want our children learning bad habits by taking medication for every little thing either. Do your research and look into all areas of assistance before jumping into a prescription. ALWAYS ask your doctor about the side effects and if there is something else that might be just as effective without all the possible side effects. Remember many doctors have incentives to promote certain drugs for the manufactures so make sure they are doing what is best for you, not the drug manufacturer!
What are your thoughts about the long lists of possible side effects for prescription drugs?

Music Memories from the 80’s

Photo Credit: musicnotes.com

My daughter has a singing competition in junior high and has been searching for an “oldies” song that is from the 1980’s and older. First of all I am depressed to hear of songs from the 80’s being considered “oldies” cause that then directly refers to me as an “oldie” too!

My husband and I sat down with her the other day and started playing video’s on YouTube of the best music from the 80’s. Be warned if you ever decide to do this you will lose hours out of your day. We could not turn it off! Each song we would say “this is a good one” or “I love this song”. We would sing along and talk about all the famous groups and singers from that time, the cool music videos, or somewhere we remember hearing a song like a dance or party. We remembered when MTV actually played music video’s all day long. As we watched we would cringed at the different clothing styles in the videos not wanting to admit that was ever in style. Even worse I was trying to forget the memories of the big hair. I swear I was brain washed into doing that and I will stick to that story. I hope I have burned all those photo’s so they cannot be used against me later!

The next day my daughter was again playing music and videos from the 80’s. She said that she loves the music from “our” time and how lucky we were to grow up with such awesome music. After spending hours listening to it the day before I have to agree. There are some great songs throughout all time but the 80’s music will never die. Maybe it is because it was during my teen and young adult years but I like to think we had some music with style!

What are your favorite songs or groups from the 80’s?

Cash vs Debit Card?

Photo Credit: budgeting.thenest.com

I thought the introduction of Visa/MasterCard debit cards was genius! I hated carrying around and writing checks, carrying cash or using my credit card for purchases only to have to write a check to pay off that amount from my checking account later. Having quick access to those funds makes my life simpler for certain, but does it also have its drawbacks?

The other day my kids had asked if I had any money and I realized that I usually carry less than $5 in actual cash at any time. I always rely on my debit card. It also got me thinking about experiences in the past that maybe I should have learned a little more about the pros and cons of cash vs debit cards.

First we have been victims of identity theft. Around Christmas one year we found someone had spent almost $1,500 fraudulently from our account. Thankfully the charges were flagged immediately at our bank because they were coming from Canada and not where we live so they shut down our debit card access. This was both good and bad. Certainly no further funds were taken fraudulently however we had no use of our cards for transactions we normally use like gasoline purchases. We had to rely on checks and cash until our new cards came in. We also had automatic payments assigned to those cards which we then had to contact those companies to set up a new payment option. By using our debit cards as much as we did it put us at greater risk of identity theft. Although we still use them we are more cautious about where they are used.

The second thing we learned about debit cards is they mean nothing when you have no power! During Hurricane Ike everything you wanted required cash. Checks were not even accepted because there was no way to verify funds. So even if I had a million dollars in the bank there was no way to access funds. Thankfully many stores and gas stations had power restored within a few days either by the electric company repairs or a power generator. Those few days without any power around town made many people realize how vital an emergency supply of cash is.

The third thing is I have been somewhere and had a purchase that was only a few dollars and without cash I had to use my debit card. Stores are charged a fee for card purchases so I am not doing them any favors by making them pay a fee for my small purchase. If I had a little more cash it would be a better option in those situations.

I am sure there are plenty of other pros and cons of both debit cards and cash. I certainly still like the convenience of the debit card but know that cash cannot disappear completely without effecting our lives at some point!

Which do you prefer to use? Debit Cards or Cash?

Fresh Bread Every Day: Easiest Recipe!

Photo Credit:artisanbreadinfive.com

I am a pro at making bricks instead of bread! My family loves homemade bread but even using a bread machine it was not always coming out the best or consistent. I also could not find a recipe that was simple enough to want to do every day. We have been trying to build a food supply and find things that we can , stock up on, store and easily make meals with. This was my dilemma because bread is one food that we felt was important to have as part of our food storage and learn to make it ourselves for times when it was necessary and not just for fun.

We had a friend at church show us an simple to make bread recipe and I couldn’t believe just how easy it is. This Artisan Bread recipe only requires 4 ingredients so anyone wanting to stock up on supplies this would be perfect to add to your food storage. You make it in a large batch and can refrigerate the remainder of the bread to use later in the week. Of course you can always do a 1/2 batch if you prefer. What is fun is you can also experiment with this bread and incorporate just about any flavor combination by adding mix in’s. I have tried Garlic Parmesan, Jalapeno Cheese, Italian Herb, Garlic & Green Onion, and 3 Cheese before but there are so many others you can try if you are creative. It can be fun to let your children help knead in the mix in’s. Although I have never tried it this recipe can be used for pizza dough, rolls and more.

Making the actual mix is also very easy so even first time bread makers can do it. The original prep is just adding and mixing. Then it will sit for about 2 hours to rise. You can then bake some of the bread at that time if you want or put the dough in the refrigerator. This does not require a bread pan but actually bakes on a flat baking sheet. If you have a stone pizza pan those work great too!  For future use during that week you simply pinch off the amount of dough you want and let it sit on the baking sheet for about 1/2 hr until it reaches room temp and it is ready to bake. You don’t even have to take the time to shape it pretty because you can literally just plop it down on the pan and bake it. Let’s be honest too, it can be pretty but it is getting cut and eaten in no time so does it really matter for most occasions? This smells amazing and I promise you will want to make more than one loaf each time.

I am posting a website here for this Artisan Bread that has the recipe, instructions and great step by step photo’s. You do not have to use the brands they list and certainly any large container with a lid will work too so just keep it simple with what you may already have!

Try this recipe and let me know what you think!

Homemade Can Rotators

I like to stock up on food items we use often especially when I can use coupons and find them on sale. There are many commercial can rotators available but frankly I would rather spend money on more food storage then a piece of plastic. I found several patterns online to make cardboard can rotators and after some trial and error and a little tinkering I came up with this cardboard can rotator that is literally made with just cardboard, popsicle sticks and glue! The ones I have made have held up perfect for the last 8 months. I have done 3 at the same time assembly line style and it takes about 1 ½ hours. This would be a fun project to involve your kids with for some of the easy steps. Most of that time spent is actually waiting for glue to dry! You can take a label or just write with a sharpie marker the “Name” of the product can in each rotator. Each rotator will hold approx. 15 cans like vegetables or fruit, and about 20 or more smaller cans like Campbell’s soup.

Cardboard Can Rotator:

Supplies: You can use any cardboard boxes you have but I have found those that are used and bent are harder to use. You can easily purchase a 14x14x14 box in the office section of Wal-Mart for approx. 67 cents. They are perfect to use for this project!

  • Need cut and have:                                             Also will need:
  • 2- 14×14 cardboard pieces                                   Utility (Exacto) Knife
  • 2- 7×14 cardboard pieces                                     Elmers Glue
  • 2- 5×11 cardboard pieces                                     Popsicle Sticks
  • 1- 2×7 cardboard piece                                         Ruler
  • 1- 5×7 cardboard pieces                                       Pencil
  • 1- 2×5 cardboard piece

Step 1: Take your two 14×14 pieces and lay next to each other. Using a ruler mark your “shelf” lines as follows:

Cardboard on Right:

  • #1: Starting from the top right corner measure 10 inches across the top and then draw a line 4 inches down from there. From the bottom of that 4 inch line draw a straight line up to the top right hand corner (making a triangle).
  • #2: Then on the same piece of cardboard start at the bottom left hand corner and measure across the bottom 10 inches and draw a line up 4 inches. Go back to the left hand bottom corner and measure straight up 6 inches and mark a small line. Take that small line and draw a line down to where it meets the 4 inch line you just did at the bottom.
  • #3: Then from the bottom right hand corner measure straight up 2 inches and mark a small line. Then go back to the bottom right hand corner and measure 3 inches along the bottom and mark a small line there. Draw a line between the two small marks.

Repeat this same step on the left side cardboard piece but you will change the directions you start with so you basically are making a mirror image of the right cardboard piece.

Step 2: You then will glue 2 popsicle sticks directly under each of the top two lines and then on the bottom line glue just one stick (See picture) and then set aside to dry.

Step 3: Take the 2- 7×14 inch pieces. These will be the pieces for the back panel and bottom. Take your ruler across where it measures 7 inches and mark a small line at 1 inches and another at 6 inches. Draw a straight line up from both of these lines. Score slightly with your utility knife to make it easier to fold, and then fold up the sides.You will take “one” of these 7×14 pieces and at the very top about ¼ inch down glue a popsicle stick across it (see picture below):

Step 4: Take one of the 7×14 panels and put glue on both of the turned up sides and glue the 2 14×14 panels to it and set it aside to dry (you can set a book on it to help it hold together and dry).

Step 5: Once the back panel and two side panels are dried stand them up and fold it in. Taking the other 7×14 panel put glue again on the folded up sides and place the side/back panel pieces inside of it pushing the bottom of the side panels against the folded up sides of the bottom panel. You can use chip clips to hold them together or keep pressing them together until they dry.

Step 6: Once the bottom panel is dried take the 2×7 piece and the 5×7 piece.  Repeat the steps (like you did with the 7×14 pieces) in Step 3 where you measure across 7 inches, marking the 1 inch and 6 inch with a small line, draw a line up, slightly score and then turn up the edges. Take the 2×7 piece and glue the folded up sides.  Glue across the bottom front pressing the folded sides around the edges of the side panels. Repeat this with the 5×7 piece which you will place the bottom of that piece about half way up (the bottom of that piece lines up with the line of popsicle sticks). See picture:

Step 7:  Put glue on all the tops of the popsicle sticks and just above them along the sides of the cardboard box. Taking your 2×5 piece lay it on the very bottom row of popsicle sticks where it rests on the sticks. Press down so it will glue onto the popsicle sticks. Glue all around the edges almost like your caulking the corners with the glue. Repeat this step with the next row of popsicle sticks with one of the 5×11 pieces, and then finish with the top row of popsicle sticks with the last 5×11 piece (this will also rest on the popsicle stick on the top of the back panel). Make sure you put glue around all the edges. Lay the can rotator on its side and place a heavy book on it to help press everything together.

Guess what?  Your done!

What ideas do you have for storing cans and other non perishable food items?

2 Pot Roast Recipes. Fast,Easy Delicious!!!

Any meal cooked in a crock pot is my kind of meal. Even better is a recipe where the prep time is just minutes and you literally just throw it all in, close the lid and let it cook. Here are two of my favorite go-to pot roast recipes that really do only take minutes to prepare. The aroma when cooking is to die for and you will love the variety in flavor between the two recipes but both are amazingly sumptuous! You can also toss in some peeled potatoes, carrots or onions if you want or serve with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. Of course some hot fresh bread or rolls is a must too!

Campbell’s Soup Pot Roast

Brown the roast on all sides and put in the crock pot. In mixing bowl mix cans of soup with the dry soup mix until well blended. Pour over the roast and close the lid to the crock pot. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours. The sauce  will be thick enough to use as gravy over the roast and potatoes.

Ranch Dressing Pot Roast:

Brown the roast on all sides and put in the crock pot. In large cup or bowl add all dry mixes with one cup of water and whisk until well blended. Pour over roast and close the lid to the crock pot. Set on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours. The sauce will be thin so if you desire a thicker gravy pour the sauce into a sauce pan and then take either 2 tbsp of flour or corn starch mixed in 1/2 cup of water and slowly add to the sauce until it thickens.

Do you have a good pot roast recipe to share?

Headache? Reach for the Peppermint Oil!!!!!

Photo Credit: doterraoil.com

We as parents will certainly have a few headaches come our way. Some are related to sickness itself but others will just come from stress. I have always relied on the usual tactics of medication, hot showers, cold packs or sleep to get rid of a headache that often provide little help or take forever for the headache to finally go away.

Years ago as I was walking through a high-end department store on my way from the parking lot into the mall I was stopped in the cosmetic section by a woman giving free samples of peppermint lotion. She swore this would help with any aches and pains but especially headache  and stress relief. I took the sample because it was free and as you all know I like free. I used it and was pleasantly surprised at the results I got with my first headache. Of course when I went to see about purchasing this same lotion I realized I would have to take out a  small loan to afford it so I decided it was not going to become a part of my headache fighting regimen after all!

Fast forward many years later where I have some friends telling me about their new excitement for essential oils and all the health benefits they offer. I being the natural skeptic that I am smiled politely but really didn’t pay it much attention until I had my next headache and I remembered the peppermint lotion I had used years ago. Having  that good success in the past I contacted my friend who is now a DoTERRA Product Consultant and told her to order me some peppermint oil. Best decision in the world! Not only does it smell good but it has a warming sensation that helps soothe and the natural oil helps alleviate pain.

I promise to post more about other oils we use another time however since I had a horrible headache last night and was reaching for the peppermint oil to find relief I thought I would share this today. I now have my whole family in love with peppermint!

Although there are many companies that offer essential oils I will have to admit I like everything I have heard about this company DoTERRA because their oils are Certified 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade. They offer a variety of oils and oil blends along with other products containing oils for a variety of needs. You can visit the website for the DoTERRA Product Consultant to inquire about their products or discuss ailments you may want help for.  Click HERE for more information.

Do you used essential oils?

Valentines Day Red Velvet Cake!!!!

Photo Credit: grouprecipes.com

My husband’s family grew up loving Red Velvet Cake which quickly became a favorite of theirs for birthdays or special occasions. I had never tried one until I had married my husband. The recipe is said to be the actual Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake served at their hotel and after trying it you could certainly see why. Although if you search it online as Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake you will find a few variations of the recipe.

I have tried to make cakes from scratch before and they have never turned out as tasty or easy as this one. I have to admit that if I am short on time I have cheated and made a store-bought red velvet cake however I will not cheat on the icing. This icing is to die for! It is not like a traditional cream cheese frosting you will find on many Red Velvet Cakes. This one is almost like whipped cream but is very rich. It also is fairly simple to make as long as you follow the instructions and make sure the flour mixture is completely cooled before preparing the remainder of the icing.

This still is the cake my husband loves for his birthday and of course being red it is perfect for Valentines too. I am never so fancy as to do multiple layers as shown but I have cut the cake in half and put a layer of icing in the center. Although I have never done it before these would make really fun cupcakes for Valentines parties too. If you have never had red velvet cake, or never had this recipe you HAVE to try it! Click HERE for the recipe:

What is your favorite cake or frosting?

Love My New George Foreman Grill!

I am all about convenience. Fixing a meal certainly is not the highlight of my day so anything that will make that process faster, easier and healthier is right up my alley. We have used a propane gas grill or a traditional charcoal grill for much of our cooking. I do like that meats cooked on a grill are not sitting in fat like when cooked in a griddle or frying pan. Frankly though I hate starting up the grill to heat or waiting for the charcoal briquettes to be ready. I certainly don’t like cleaning up the gunky messy grill plates later. Also the last thing I want to do in the high temperature and humidity of Houston is be outside cooking in front of a hot grill. So where is the happy medium that balances that out?

For my birthday my sweet husband and kids bought me an indoor grill. This is the George Foreman Grand Champ Family Value Grill. Each time I use it I am more excited about the benefits this indoor grill offers and excited to actually cook a meal. The one thing this does not offer that you get with a traditional grill would be the smokey flavor but other than that it does the job very well. This particular grill is just one of many products offered by the George Foreman Line and is their larger family size grill.

There are so many things to love! First of all it does not require any cooking spray. You simply start it heating and the indicator light lets you know when it is ready, which isn’t very long. Being family sized I easily was able to cook 6 hamburger patties on it. What is fabulous is the lid closes down to allow cooking on both sides at the same time offering evenly cooked food, no need to turn anything over, and the food actually cooks faster. This grill is slanted to allow juices and fat to run off into a drip tray. Clean up is extremely easy too because once it has cooled off you simply wipe it clean with a towel and warm water. Any juice or food debris can be easily scraped off with the special spatula scraper they provide. The grill does not need to be washed other than that and the drip pan and spatula scraper are both dishwasher safe. It is by far the easiest clean up of any cooking methods I have done.

So far I  have enjoyed cooking chicken, hamburgers and shrimp and look forward to many other adventures with my new indoor grill. So a special shout out thank you to my family for the fabulous gift!

What products are your favorites or make cooking more convenient?