Monday, September 1, 2014

My Dishwasher Detergent Confessions plus DIY Dishwasher Magnet

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SparklySavings #CollectiveBias 

Confession #1 - I don't like doing the dishes

This probably comes from the fact I rarely had a dishwasher growing up. I washed my fair share of dishes and now, since we eat 3 meals a day at home, I am constantly tackling an ever growing mountain of dirty dishes. It is quite a job.

But does anyone really enjoy doing the dishes?

Having a dishwasher made a huge difference in my attitude, With a family of 5, I now consider a dishwasher more of a necessity than a luxury. It is the only appliance in the house we didn't upgrade when we moved in. But it is on my list. With Back-to-School needs and upcoming family birthdays and the holidays though, it isn't a priority. 

Instead of a top of the line machine I am using the best dishwasher detergent I can find instead.

Confession #2 - I pre-scrubbed my dishes

I blame it on my love of melted cheese, but I was a die-hard dish scrubber. I assumed the power lacking in our old dishwasher was the reason why the dishes came out with stuck-on food and spots. Oh, how I dislike spots on my dishes! We have well water so I needed to find a way to get my glasses shiny and residue free. 

The simple solution was in Finish Quantum Power Dishwasher Detergent. The Power Gel helped to rinse away any residue that comes from my well water and the pre-soaking Powerball® took care of all my tenacious baked-on food particles.

Even a night of French Onion Soup Meatballs with all that melted Swiss Cheese came off in the dishwasher cycle.

Confession #3 -  I run my dishwasher 2-4 times a day

Yes, you heard me. I know my way around dishes! Since my husband is a farmer we have the luxury of having all our meals at home as a family. But all that home cooking is brutal on our dishwasher... and me! It didn't leave any time for me to re-run a load that didn't come out clean the first time. 

Confession #4 -  I waste a lot of dishwasher detergent

Call me clumsy but, previously we used a powdered dishwasher detergent and those big boxes were always awkward to pour. Bumped by the baby or startled by wild children zooming through the kitchen, I was always over filling the detergent holder. I was all for trying a pre-measured tab to avoid the waste.

My husband was skeptical.

But I love grabbing a single tab. And I am the one doing the dishes.

Since our old dishwasher detergent just wasn't cutting it, I was happy to give Finish Quantum a try. You might have noticed that Walmart has Finish Products on Rollback (now until October) and you can grab a coupon right here to combine and save even more! 

It is a great time to try it for yourself.

With all the Finish Product options available at my Walmart, I am sure there is a solution in there for all of your own dishwasher confessions. 

Confession #5 - Sometimes I can't tell if my dishes are clean or dirty

And my last little secret is probably something many families deal with. After the green dishwasher light goes off, how do you keep track of whether the dishes are clean or dirty? I never like to realize they are dirty after putting half of them away, so I decided to create a Clean/Dirty Dishwasher Magnet.

It's easy to make with a Silhouette machine and a few simple supplies.

I used:
  • Silhouette Cameo Die Cutter
  • Adhesive Magnet Paper
  • Scrapbook Paper
  • Adhesive Vinyl
  • Transfer Tape

I found the fork and spoon in the Silhouette online library. The download was just $0.99, and I paired it with a shape I already owned and a simple font in my current library. 

This was my first experience using the Adhesive Magnet Paper from Silhouette and it was so simple to cut and use. I just followed the instructions on the back of package and used the cut settings as suggested by the software. 

I also cut the same basic shape out of two different scrapbook paper designs and cut those in half. The white backing peels off the magnet paper and then you can attach it to anything. 

I cut the fork and spoon as well as the words out of adhesive vinyl scraps. With transfer paper I moved them over to my magnet and was done! 

Now I have solved my fifth problem. My kids already like the idea of turning the magnet when I start the dishwasher. I am not sure how long this game will last, but it helps to keep me straight.

As for confession 1-4? Well, Finish Quantum Power has me covered there. My dishes have been cleaner this week than they have for the past 4 years. Now I know I can put off replacing the dishwasher a little longer.

What are your Dishwasher Confessions?
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Basil Lemon Fettuccine Dressed in a Lemon Artichoke Sauce - September Secret Recipe Club #Recipe

There is something almost magical about fresh pasta.

Pasta is surprisingly simple to make at home, but is nothing like it's shelf stable counter part. Fresh pasta is flavorful, filling and has a bite to it that is memorable. In my house, freshly made noodles are a simple way to create a little love in a usually mundane food.

Though I have to say, this pasta... and sauce, are anything but average.

I found Cooking on the Ranch through The Secret Recipe Club and was thrilled to get to know  Lea Ann a little better through her blog as my September assignment. She cooks from her ranch, I cook from our farm, and it was a great match in my eyes. I have to admit that I found several shrimp recipes on her blog, including her Shrimp in Walnut Pesto Cream Sauce, I am dying to make. My husband is not the biggest fan of shrimp though, so I save those recipes for when he is away. Instead I settled on a lovely sounding pasta dish that would allow me to play around with herb flavored pastas.

Lea Ann is a Denver area food blogger with a flare for food that reflects the flavors of the West. I love that her recipe section includes both lamb and salmon recipes which are favorites of ours here in Oregon.

Now, her recipe was actually promoting a specific brand of noodles, but not having access to those, it was simple enough to make up my own and then used her pasta sauce recipe to dress them.

The resulting dish was both simple and delicious! My husband said he would be happy to repeat this dinner.

Despite pasta being a "heavier" dish, this is the perfect way to end Summer and look forward to Fall. The ingredients are simple and fresh, but it was filling enough to not leave us wanting after the meal.

Flavoring the pasta was simple enough. I took the more tender leaves from my basil plants and added them to the food processor along with the eggs. The blades pulsed them up finely, but they were still noticeable in the noodles. 

Seems like every few months my husband and I discuss buying an electric pasta roller, but my little hand crank roller does such a good job I'm just not convinced I need anything more. With care, this press will probably outlast me. I keep a pastry brush in the box to brush it clean after each use.

Aren't these pretty fettuccine noodles?

The sauce is a one pot affair with a little heat and a little time. It was perfect though.

So from Lea Ann's ranch, to my farm and now you, here is the recipe to make this lovely dinner for yourself.

Basil Lemon Fettuccine with Lemon Artichoke Sauce
from Cooking on the Ranch

You Will Need:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. flour + more for dusting pasta
  • 1/4 c. loose basil leaves, stems discarded
  • 1/2 lemon zested
  • 1-2 Tbsp. water
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1- 8 oz. can artichoke hearts
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. cream
  • Italian parsley, chopped to garnish the top

Start by making the pasta. In a food processor (or you can use the flour well and fork method) pulse up your flour, egg, basil and lemon zest. It will resemble loose sand. Drizzle in a tablespoon of water, just so the pasta comes together. It should be slightly dry, but not crumble. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Roll out into fettuccine noodles, toss with a little flour to prevent sticking and hang to dry or use immediately.

Start a large stock pot boiling for the pasta.

In a saute pan, sweat down onion slices, whole garlic cloves and artichoke slices in olive oil over medium low heat. Season with a little salt and let them start to turn light tan. Do not let them burn. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 c. wine.

Once the wine has evaporated, add the remaining wine, chicken stock,lemon juice and cream. Reduce to a simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Boil the pasta till aldente. Remove the garlic cloves from the saute pan and add the pasta, tossing to coat. Add pasta water to achieve the preferred consistency. Garnish with Italian parsley. 


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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Simple Mexican Corn & Zucchini Soup with Corn Bread & Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos

Last week was a blur. A whirlwind of work and time in the city for school clothes shopping meant we ate out more than either my husband or I prefer. In fact, despite having a few lovely meals I was starting to feel rather, blah.

And by "blah" I mean heavy and done. Done with all the restaurant fare.

This week I have been back in the kitchen to catch up with some upcoming posts and events. I have also tried to go from scratch and keep our meals simple. Tonight was a product of both seasonal offerings and simplicity. Corn also happens to be the challenge bloggers' food of the week. I have no shortage of corn here on the farm.

I have ears coming out of the my ears!

But what I don't do is cook with corn very often. No, we are guilty of usually just a simple steam and then eating it plain. Freshly picked corn really doesn't need much else. But in the spirit of the challenge I decided to try transforming our usual ear of corn into two dishes; a Mexican Corn & Zucchini Soup as well as a Corn Bread and Italian Sausage Stuffed Jalapeno.

My husband is very proud of his mild jalapenos. They pack all the glorious flavor of the usual pepper without all the heat. My husband usually doesn't like it when I cook or bake with jalapenos but this has given me more creative possibilities. Of course, these recipes would also be lovely if you like the heat from jalapenos.

First up is the delicious, but simple soup recipe.

Mexican Corn and Zucchini Soup

You Will Need:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 3 ears of corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1 c. milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Monterey Jack Cheese, grated to garnish the top
In a large saucepan with butter and oil, sweat the onion down with a pinch of salt. When translucent, stir in the stock, zucchini, corn and diced jalapeno. Simmer till the zucchini is tender.

Then stir in the milk and warm through. Add salt and pepper taste. Serve topped with shredded Monterey Jack Cheese.


I served my soup with these lovely little sweet corn bread and sausage stuffed jalapenos.

Sweet Corn Bread and Sausage Stuffed Jalapenos

You Will Need:

  • 20 jalapenos
  • 1/4 c. Italian sausage
  • 1 bag Marie Calendar's Corn Bread Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ear of corn, blanched and cut off the cob
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brown the sausage and set aside. Slice each jalapeno and remove the seeds and membrane. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

Mix the  corn bread mix with egg, corn, butter and sugar. Place a teaspoon of sausage in the middle of each  jalapeno half. Top with corn bread batter and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the corn bread starts to turn golden brown on top.


Weekly challenge to push the creativity of food bloggers. Create an original recipe each week to accomodate the weeks ingredient. If you are a blogger that is interested in linking up your themed recipe, please join the Facebook group to learn how.

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Be Rewarded for your healthy choices at Walgreens

This healthy choices shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions and experiences are mine alone. #BalanceRewards #CollectiveBias

My day is filled with choices.

First is the choice to hit the snooze button...or not. Then, do I lace up my tennis shoes for a walk, or grab my yoga mat? Or do I skip it all together and dive straight into work?

Yes, there are a lot of choices that I have to face each day, but I am trying to make those healthy choices for myself and my family. Ultimately I want to manage my weight and be healthier. That is a great reward in itself. But, I think Walgreens knows I need a little more motivation to meet my health goals. I am all in for a dangling carrot or reward for my accomplishments. Walgreens is now rewarding me with points for my healthy lifestyle choices.

Yes! Walgreens Balance Rewards have gotten even better.

Are you earning Balance Rewards with Walgreens? The Balance Rewards program is free to sign up and I can earn points (50 points!) for every $1 I spend in-store. With all the great deals and coupons available it just makes sense for me to drop in for my my family's needs.

I don't know how many times I have started a "new" exercise and food log. Always with the best of intentions I begin writing everything down and as the days go by I lose interest and lose track of my progress. Then accountability goes as well and I am back to my old routine.

Now I can set my goals, sync a device or App, track my weigh, bloodpressure or other health indicators and earn points for my effort. Check out the Walgreens Balance Rewards for healthy choices page for all the ways your can track and earn.

I have had my Balance Rewards card with Walgreens for a few years now. I use it to save money and even clip coupons for the products we need. But now just by taking my morning run or enjoying a family walk in the evening, I am earning points.

I was so excited about this new program, I had to get outfitted. My husband watched the kids and I went shopping alone in my neighborhood Walgreens for products just for me. My big goal is to walk daily. I know that just 30 minutes a day can make a huge difference in my health and I am also aiming to get 10,000+ steps into each day. This is just a start, but after having my last baby I have a long way to go to reach my health goals.

Walgreens has a whole variety of items to help me get up, get out and make all those healthy lifestyle choices a little easier. Here is what I found at my local store.

  1. Lip gloss - Walgreens has a great selection of brands and flavors to keep my lips happy.
  2. Friction Reducer - This runner's glide is helpful for any running chafe that may occur. It is non-greasy and scentless.
  3. Pain Reliever - I am not getting any younger and taking an extra strength pain reliever after a run helps me to not be slowed down with aches and pains of exercise and aging.
  4. Mixed Nuts - My favorite mid morning or after run snack is a handful of mixed nuts. I love portable protein!
  5. Blister bandages - I have new shoes and want to be prepared for the pain of breaking them in. I like to manage blisters when they first start so they don't slow me down.
  6. Water Bottle - I only take one bottle on my walks so I grabbed a new one with a built-in carbon-based filter so I can refill as needed on the way.
I was also originally going to buy a FitBit in the store, but when I found out I could sync the RunKeeper App already on my phone, I decided to try that out first. It was easy to add the App and have been earning 20 - 60 points a day for my walks.

When I weigh myself weekly, I add that to the App too and am rewarded. It doesn't get much easier than that.

My kids love my new found motivation. We have had a lot more races lately and my kids are getting fast, too! I know I need to put in some major mileage to be in good enough shape to keep up with them. All that exercise will not only keep me healthy, but will quickly earn enough in rewards to treat us all to drinks and snacks at Walgreens afterwards.

So what are you waiting for? Healthy choices start with a single step and Walgreens is handing out plenty of motivation with their healthy choices program.

As for me, I went ahead and ordered that FitBit from It should arrived any day now. Being motivated has re-energized me to take better care of myself for my family. I am really curious to not only track all workouts, but also all my steps and activity throughout the day. There is lot that goes into staying healthy was we get older, but I am on my way.

Ready to be rewarded for your healthy choices? Ready, ...set, ... get connected and GO!

How will you be rewarded?

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Crafting with Kids: Salt Painting

Looking for a quick kid-friendly craft idea or art project? Give salt painting a try. My kids had a blast painting and then waiting to discover how the salt would transform their watercolor art.

You Will Need:
  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolors
  • Salt - I used Kosher salt, Margarita salt and rock salt also create fun effects. Unfortunately, table salt is too fine to create effects like this.

The larger the salt crystals, the larger and more dramatic the effect will be. It is fun for the kids to experiment and try the effect, but you never know exactly how it will turn out.

Paint the image with enough water to keep the design wet, but not to make the paper soggy. Sprinkle salt over areas of the painting before they dry. The salt will help to dry the painting faster so you won't have to wait long to see the finished masterpiece.

My kids had a blast painting underwater scenes and flowers. The big reveal after they dried (it took about 10 minutes for the salt to brush off easily) was very exciting and fun.

I used Tim Holtz Distress Watercolor Cardstock in 4 1/2" by 5 1/2" because I want to turn ours into thank you cards for back-to-school. I love hand written notes and to attach a unique piece of the children's art seems like a great combination.

Think of all the salt painting possibilities! 

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Would You Top New Progresso Chili?

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All experiences and opinions are my own. #ProgressoChili, #PlatefullCoOp

A warm bowl of chili doesn't have to be a day away any longer. Now Progresso has introduced "homemade" quality chili in an easy to make, easy to store pouch. And now I can focus on what I will top my favorite chili with, instead of slaving away in the kitchen to make it.

With the kids heading back-to-school soon, it is time to start looking towards Fall, warm soups and comfort foods. At the top of my husband's list would be chili. During the colder months when I meal plan and ask for his input I already know what his answer will be... chili.

If you are a fan of Progresso soups, or just a chili fan in general, then stand up and take note. This delicious bowl of chili only took me 5 1/2 minutes to prepare! Yes, and it was full of slow cooked flavor and perfect for me to top with cheese, freshly diced tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream.

I tried the Southwest Style White Chicken Chili with Beans first. It is a creamy blend of all-white meat chicken, white beans, green sweet peppers, tomatillos and onions  I prefer a white bean chili, but my husband is more a fan of the tomato based, darker, chili. There was plenty in that pouch to dig my spoon into. Thick with tender beans and large chunks of chicken meat, it was a great option for a quick but hearty lunch.

The other chili option from Progresso is the Smokehouse Pork and Beef Chili with Beans. This one is unique with  Andouille sausage, beef, and a secret blend of spices, all slow-cooked with tomatoes, onions, green sweet peppers and pinto and red kidney beans. I would like to eat a bowl of this cuddled up with a good book, topped with sharp cheddar cheese, green onions and just a few sprinkles of crispy bacon. The sausage already makes this one rich and delicious, but I think it needs something crunchy to top it.

And you know they mean business when they put a clear bottom in the package so you can see exactly what is in their chili! You can find New Progresso Chili in the soup aisle.

So how would you top your Progresso Chili?

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Stick to Your Morning Workout with 5 Tips + Dial Body Wash Giveaway

This workout worthy bottle of New Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango body wash was provided by the Dial brand in exchange for the review, but all opinions and experiences are my own. #GetNoticed

This week I have been getting up early to exercise with my son. Okay, some mornings the baby is up early, too and he comes along in the stroller, but my new commitment is to get back to 10,000+ steps a day. Despite trying to get in a workout DVD during naps, or slip away after dinner, I had to find something we could all stick to. Trying to walk mid-morning with 3 small children just wasn't happening.

If you are a busy Mom, you probably sympathize with how difficult it can be to carve out a few minutes for yourself. I mean, the bathroom is no longer a safe place and emergencies or tantrums seem to flare up when least expected.

I have to grab time where I can.

Of course a big motivator for me to work up a sweat is the steamy call of a hot shower. My newest treat has been the Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Hydrating Body Wash. Not only does my skin feel smooth after my shower, but the antioxidants and electrolytes can help replenish lost hydration in my skin. Coconut water is all the rage right now, so why not treat you skin to a little, too. And the scent, it is a lovely way to start my day!

This is now my favorite way to wash off the salt and sweat of a good hard earned workout and maybe let my mind wander to a distant tropical island...

Okay, so besides finding the perfect time to slip in that daily workout, here are a few of my other tips.

5 Tips For Successfully Tackling Morning Workouts

1. Find a Buddy - Accountability is a huge motivator to me. In this case I enlisted my oldest son. He really needed another way to expel energy and stay out of trouble in the morning. He can walk/run most of our 3.3 mile loop on his own. If you have a baby, put them in the stroller and you are set!

2. Set Multiple Alarms - If you have a hard time waking up, don't let yourself hit snooze by setting multiple reminders to get up and get going.

3. Set Out Your Gear - I am much less likely to roll back into bed if my outfit is sitting and waiting for me to go. I also set out clothes for my son and we can be out the door in record time.

4. Hydrate - Don't forget to have a water bottle, or two, ready to go! I have one stashed in the fridge so I can stay hydrated for the entire workout.

5. Have a reward like Dial Coconut Water Refreshing Mango Hydrating Body Wash waiting for you to return. I give myself a few minutes to enjoy the hot water and get a fresh smelling start to the day. I love the coconut and mango scent to really pamper myself.

Giveaway Time!!!

Would you like to try this new body wash for yourself? I have 2 coupons so you can try it for yourself and treat a friend, too. This is one great experience you will want to share!

Easy entry! Leave me a comment on this post to tell me how you slip in workouts or why you need this hydrating coconut water body wash. I will draw a lucky winner on 9/1. Winner must be 18 years old or older and have a US mailing address. Good luck!
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