Monday, June 29, 2015

Blackberry Vanilla Bean Milkshakes

This Blackberry Vanilla Bean Milkshake recipe shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SunsOutSpoonsOut #CollectiveBias

As a child we spent many summer weekends exploring the trails and waterfalls around southern Oregon. After a long morning hike, we would head in for lunch or dinner at a little place on the way home called, Munchies. They specialized in big hefty portions and catered to the log truck drivers passing through their rural community as well as hikers and tourists like us, In a tiny unassuming building you could enjoy fresh cut fries and burgers well suited for big appetites."Munchie", the stuffed beaver mascot was always dressed differently, and yes, that is still a vivid childhood memory. You don't soon forget a beaver wearing shades and a sun hat!  I loved several of their menu items but always looked forward to their seasonal blackberry milkshake.

It wasn't just a regular milkshake. No, it was bursting with seaonal Oregon blackberries, had ribbons of thick blackberry syrup and lots of big fresh blackberries in the milkshake cup. The milkshake itself was thick and smooth, just dotted with plump fruit.

It was the stuff childhood dreams are made of...

The nearby burger and sandwich hut has changed hands a few times and gone are the seasonal treats like fresh blackberry milkshakes. *sigh*

But, I still wanted to share the experience with my kids. So this past weekend we jumped in the car and headed to the berry patch to pick fresh blackberries for a special summer treat. Cold milkshakes are one of my favorite parts of summer fun. It has been a scorcher so far in Oregon. We don't typically get this hot, this fast. So both the people and berries have suffered a little. As you can see, picking was a little slim...

But, you promise 3 kids ice cream and then send them out to pick and somehow... they find enough berries for milkshakes.

My daughter is always fashionable, but we all had glasses and hats to stave off the hot weather we have been experiencing.

I know, some of you are more prepared for triple digits during summertime. Here that isn't supposed to be a common occurrence. Oregon is usually a bit cooler... and a whole lot wetter!

My oldest is such a big help when it comes to picking. He is also very good about sampling as he picks. I love the tell-tale berry streaks on his sun-kissed cheeks.

Of course, to make the perfect Blackberry Vanilla Bean Milkshake you need to use the best ice cream. I went with Blue Bunny Vanilla Bean because a milkshake is only as good as the ice cream used in it. It was also an excellent way to motivate my picking crew!

I recently stocked up on several flavors of Blue Bunny Ice Cream because, well... it is summer! There are so many fun ways to enjoy ice cream on a hot summer day. I also picked up regular vanilla and will be using that for a fun bundt cake recipe next week. I love the idea of using ice cream for baking. Stay tuned for all the fun and a new recipe coming soon.

Okay, back to that amazing milkshake!  Nothing is better than a sweet blackberry vanilla bean milkshake at the peak of berry season! And I love Blue Bunny because of it's rich flavor and smooth texture. I also appreciate how easily it scoops.

Let's get started, shall we?

Blackberry Vanilla Bean Milkshakes

You will need:
  • 3 c. fresh blackberries, rinsed + a handful for garnishing
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch
  • water - enough to dissolve the cornstarch
  • 3 large scoops of Blue Bunny Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
  • 3 oz. milk
Place 2 cups of fresh blackberries and sugar in a small saucepan. Let the berries come up to a simmer, stir to dissolve the sugar. Add more sugar as necessary for your berries. Add a little water to the cornstarch and dissolve completely with your finger to break up any clumps. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the berry sauce until thickened. Set the pan aside and allow to cool.

In a blender add the Blue Bunny Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and milk, pulse till smooth. Add in 1 cup of fresh berries and pulse slightly to break up the berries.

To serve, add a little milkshake mixture to your cup and then add a heaping spoonful of berry sauce, keep alternating until the glass is full. Top with a fresh blackberry and a straw or spoon.


I have to admit, a hot day of picking berries is much more enjoyable when it ends with ice cream. I am pretty sure as long as I have Blue Bunny Ice Cream on hand, my kids will help me with all our local farm adventures.

You can find a big selection of Blue Bunny Ice Cream, like Vanilla Bean, at your local Walmart. Also be on the look-out for 4th of July in-store demos with Blue Bunny and Chips Ahoy. Oh, boy! Doesn't that sound amazing? Check the store list to see if there will be a demo coming to a Walmart near you.

Be sure to check out all the flavors at You can also check out all the other great #SunsOutSpoonsOut recipe ideas. I'd love to hear your favorite!

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

DIY Puppet Theater - Expressing Emotions & Creative Play

 This Inside Out shop and puppet theater tutorial has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #InsideOutEmotions #CollectiveBias

For Father's Day, we all went to the movies to watch Inside Out as a family. I have to admit that It was a great movie and was really surprised that my youngest, just 2-years-old, really enjoyed the characters as much as the rest of us. If you have a wiggly toddler at home, you know how big of a deal this is.

So I was excited to let all the kids pick out their own Inside Our plush on a recent trip to Walmart. We love role playing games and putting on shows, and I thought these adorable emotion plush toys would be perfect for putting on our own puppet plays. 

So which emotion did each of my kids choose?

We let my youngest, Elliott, select his favorite character first. I was surprised when he picked Sadness, but he was very sure about it.

Maybe it was the blue he loved, or the big blue eyes that matched his own, but either way it was snuggly love at first sight.

It is hard for my 2-year-old to deal with all those swirling emotions going through him. Recently there have been more tantrums, more spontaneous crying and frustration about not being able to have ice cream at every meal. So, Sadness was probably the perfect choice for Elliott. He is learning that sadness means some things are just too much fun to stop, and it is okay to be sad when things don't happen the way he hopes.

My middle child picked Disgust. An interesting choice for her.

I asked my daughter to show off the emotion, "disgust" for me, but she just couldn't do it. Okay, she can't do it on cue, at least. Anyone with a daughter knows that little girls can turn disgust on and off when the moment is right. Those sensible shoes? Not going to happen... they don't light up or have glitter on them. Oh, yeah, tutus and sparkly glitter go with everything. Hand-me-downs from her big brother, that would be a moment for disgust.

But at this moment she was far too happy to let disgust show.

And my oldest? My almost 8-year-old is a firecracker, for sure! I was not surprised when he picked Anger. He is at a tough age. He is putting aside some of his favorite toys and hobbies in favor of more mature interests. But, he still gets frustrated and doesn't always know the appropriate way to release his anger.

So what happens when emotions run high in our house? Well, it is the perfect time to play! We created an easy puppet theater out of simple items we picked up at our local Walmart. This gave us a chance to role-play all those emotions and talk about how they make us feel.

DIY Puppet Theater

You Will Need:
  1. tri-fold display boardred
  2. poster board or construction paper
  3. utility knife, or box cutter
  4. scissors
  5. craft glue
  6. glue dots
  7. ruler
  8. ribbon or string
  9. gold sharpie
  10. twine or colorful string
  11. scrapbook paper
  12. mini clothes pins
Grab some supplies and let's get started! This project will require help from an adult.

First I created the window for the puppet theater. I left a nice margin all around the window, and put it up high enough my kids could use it while kneeling. The corrugated board is thick, so a utility knife or box cutters work best here. 

Then I measured the opening so I could make the red curtains to frame the window. I wanted them to hang down below the window and also go across the entire middle section of the display board.

Then I cut out a top piece, 2 curtains and used some of my discarded cardboard (glued three layers thick) to make the top piece stand out and add depth. I glued those under my top piece of red cardboard.

Then I added details to my theater. I had some vine ribbon that I used for curtain ties. Then I created a brightly colored bunting out of scrapbook paper, mini clothes pins and gold-flecked kitchen twine.

I had extra triangles left over from the bunting, so I decorated the sides of the puppet theater with those.

And for a final touch, I added some details with a gold permanent marker. That really helped the curtains stand out from the theater.

The finished puppet theater is simple, bright and fun! 

Then it was time to put on a show! Kids don't really need any help in this department. With the cute Inside Out plushes, my kids had lots of ideas for stories.

But, in this house everyone wants to perform. This was a great way to start a discussion about emotions as well as appropriate ways to express emotions, etc.

You can grab your own collection of Inside Out plushes at Walmart. Just look for the cute Inside Out displays.

Then for after performance snacking, we also found Kellogg's Inside Out fruit snacks. Aren't these adorable? They are shaped like each of our favorite emotions from the movie.

Who, in your life, would like their own puppet theater and Inside Out plushes? How do you explore emotions in your family?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Digging into a Satisfying New Yogurt - #LandofPlenti

My days are packed with to-do lists, wish lists, obligations, routines and requests from my family. From the moment my eyes open in the morning, with a little help from a vocal 2-year-old, till that blissful moment my head hits the pillow and I melt into bed, there is plenty to keep me busy.

One of the hardest things for me is to remember to eat and stay fueled throughout the day. Grabbing breakfast and even lunch can be a challenge some days. Working from home adds a new dimension of difficulty to my situation.  I often don the hat of a short-order cook to keep my picky eaters happy, then there is naptime to manage, the meal's dishes to tackle, etc.

But now I have a new option for grabbing a quick meal or snack...

I picked up these new Yoplait Plenti at my local Fred Meyer (Kroger store). I love Greek yogurt, and I really enjoy mixing in fruit and other items like nuts and grains. This yogurt comes with whole grain oats, flax and pumpkin seeds. Yes, it is the yogurt that just comes with more! 

So I can save precious time hunting around the pantry for add-ins, I can grab a cup of Plenti for everything I need to enjoy a fulfilling snack or quick meal.

Plenti is the same amazingly smooth yogurt you would expect from Yoplait, But, in this case, more is more... you get MORE in each bite, MORE flavor, and MORE texture. And yes, it has taken just one container of yogurt to leave me feeling satisfied because it contains more than your average container of Greek yogurt.

Now, I love the Black Cherry, Blueberry was nice, too. But, you can find a variety of Plenti flavors at your local Kroger store:

• Plentí – Black Cherry
• Plentí – Blueberry
• Plentí – Coconut
• Plentí – Peach
• Plentí – Raspberry
• Plentí – Spiced Apple
• Plentí – Strawberry
• Plentí – Vanilla

So for a busy Mom with plenty on her plate already, Plenti from Yoplait is how I tackle those busy days. All I need to add is the spoon.

Look for all the great flavors at your local Kroger store and be sure to learn more about how Plenti is packed full of goodness on the Plenti Greek yogurt website.

Which flavor would you like to dig into first?

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Cherry Chipotle Ribs

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media®, Smithfield® and Farmland®, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade #GetUpandGrill #GetFiredUpGrilling

Summer has officially started on both the calendar and with the close of the school year. That is reason enough to fire up the grill and enjoy these amazing ribs featuring seasonal black cherries. This Cherry Chipotle Ribs recipe will be a clear star at your next BBQ.

Right now our orchards are filled with ripe and juicy cherries. Cherries just happen to be my favorite fruit and I am always looking for new ways to enjoy them. I have passed on this love of cherries to my kids as well and they were more than happy to help me pick enough to serve with dinner.

Well, have you ever tried them in a BBQ sauce? It is a treat you will not soon forget.

I love to pair pork with fruit... either apples or in this case, fresh seasonal cherries. And the sweet, dark flavor of the cherries works really well with just a little gentle chipotle heat.

I grabbed these Farmland® St. Louis Style Pork Spareribs at my local Walmart, where you can also grab cherries and everything else you will need to create this finger-licking recipe. If you have rib fans in your family, this is a recipe you will want to share with them.

This recipe starts with a simple dry rub. Now, you can buy pre-made rubs, but it is so easy to create your own. You probably have everything already in your spice drawer or pantry. Start with this basic recipe and change up the flavors to fit your tastes.

It just takes a few basic spices and seasonings.

I like to whisk together a double batch and save some for the next time the grilling mood hits me. Or maybe next time I will just make a double batch of ribs instead...

Rub both sides generously and then put the ribs on the smoker. We love smoking  low and slow for tender and flavorful meat.

The BBQ sauce is also super easy to make. Our fresh cherries went into the cherry jam I used in this recipe and some were juiced to provide added moisture while the ribs smoked. Just a little dish or pan in the back of the smoker will add to the humidity while the ribs cook. You want the smokey flavor but not for the meat to dry out.

In the end, you will achieve slow-cooked, saucy ribs. I suggest keeping a large supply of napkins handy to tackle these bad boys! Good ribs should be messy, don't you think?

I let the ribs sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. It can be so hard not to sample the meat. It smells so good, but I don't want to loose any of the juices in the meat.

Don't these look amazing? This is a rib recipe we will be coming back to again and again. Ready to try it out for yourself?

Cherry Chipotle Ribs

You Will Need:

Farmland® St. Louis Style Pork Spareribs

Dry Rub

  • 3 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
Whisk together all the rub ingredients. Rub liberally onto both sides of the ribs. Set aside while setting up your smoker. Place a small pan with cherry juice to keep the humidity up as the ribs smoke.

Turn your smoker onto smoke and leave the door open until smoke is visible. Put the ribs on the grill, bone side down, and close the door. Smoke for 2 hours and prepare the Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce in the meantime.

Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce
  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 1 c. cherry jam
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor, blend till smooth. Place in a small saucepan and bring up to a simmer for 10 minutes. Stir constantly. Remove from the heat and season to taste. Reserve half the BBQ sauce for serving and set the other half aside for basting the ribs as they cook.

Turn the smoker to 325 degrees and grill the ribs for about an hour. Then brush the ribs with the Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce and continue grilling till the ribs reach 160 degrees and the meat starts to pull away from the bones.

Let the meat rest for 10 minutes then cut between the bones and brush with additional BBQ sauce before serving.


Be sure to visit and enter the Get Fired Up Grilling website/sweepstakes for additional recipes and tips from BBQ Pitmasters Moe Cason and Tuffy Stone. Also enter to win a trip to the American Royal BBQ contest and other great grilling prizes!

So, how do you like your ribs?

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Filling a Man Sized Hunger with New STOUFFER'S® Fit Kitchen

This STOUFFER'S® Fit Kitchen shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc.  its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PowerfulProtein #CollectiveBias

My husband doesn't work in an office anymore. He ditched the cubicle to get back to nature a few years ago. In truth, it was in his blood. He is the 4th generation to work this land and carry on his family's farm.

His daily office "view" changes depending on the weather and what is currently in season. He was raised here on the farm and learned a lot from his Dad, his Grandpa and now his Uncle.

There is a lot of multi-tasking that needs to be done on a farm. One crop may need to be planted while the ground is prepared for another, there are always field crews to direct and, this time of year, hay to keep an eye on. And the hours are rarely steady or predictable.

Farmers are not only skilled at multi-tasking, but also wear various hats throughout the long day. One day my husband may be planting, harvesting or baling while another day he has to be a mechanic, welder or source for the newspaper on a local agriculture piece.

Of course, there is rarely a day that goes by my husband doesn't come home covered in grease, oil, hay or dirt. That all just part of the job.

But the truth is he loves what he does. He loves feeding our community as well as feeding our family. He loves to be outside and watch a simple seed and dirt field turn into the year's crop. He works hard to manage and be knowledgeable about over 60 crops here on the farm.

There is beauty all around us. Simple beauty in the neat little rows, the orchards and the fields of alfalfa.

There is beauty in the hard work and sweat that went into planting this new peach orchard. It has been amazing watching those little sticks mature into young fruit bearing trees. The peaches this year are just amazing!

But hard farm work and long, irregular hours mean my husband often returns after a long day needing to eat fast, or needing to eat later than the rest of us. I am always looking for better ways to keep him fed with a warm and hearty meal befitting his day (and often night) job. You could say that he needs #PowerfulProtein to do this job day in and day out.

Because weather, plants, and perfect growing conditions don't wait for dinnertime, I have to find flexible meal solutions to fill a man-sized hunger.

I have to make dinnertime work for my husband's schedule.

Have you tried STOUFFER'S® Fit Kitchen meals? These may have been made for busy farmers, or  guys with irregular hours who want something to leave them feeling satisfied. Each variety contains 25 grams of protein or more and takes just 10 minutes to prepare! 

I grabbed the STOUFFER'S® Fit Kitchen Steak Fajita, along with several other varieties, on my last trip to Walmart. You can find them in the freezer aisle with STOUFFER'S® Single Serve Entrées.

My husband enjoys beef, so I knew he would enjoy the STOUFFER'S® Fit Kitchen Steak Fajita. This one has tender prime rib steak in a smoked red chile sauce with a mix of red and green peppers and seasoned brown rice. 

There are 6 varieties of STOUFFER'S® Fit Kitchen meals available:

  • Steak Fajita
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken
  • Rotisserie Seasoned Turkey
  • Bourbon Steak
  • Oven Roasted Chicken
  • Monterey Chicken

Now I want to know, which STOUFFER'S® Fit Kitchen meal would you like to try first? Do you have a hard-working man in your life who would love to try them?

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