Nov 17, 2012

Scrapbook Process: Gratitude Journal

After posting several recipes, I thought it should be time for a paper crafting project!  This weekend I am finishing up a Gratitude Journal that was devised from combining two different online ideas. This will be my own personal gratitude journal; I have been working on it for a couple weeks.

 The idea of using a type of tag book was from this Scrapbook Showgram by Sandy Genovese.  (FYI - watch now if interested in this tutorial; her episodes are only accessible for a short time unless you are a Gold member)  In this episode, Sandy demonstrates how to create a Thanksgiving Tag Book by making your own oversized tags with a simple template and a cute box/cover in which to store it.  For my tag book, I included more pages so that I had one for each day of November.  I haven't decided if I will make the box for it or not.

Instead of filling my tag book with just journaling, I found this great 30 Day Photo Gratitude Challenge on Pinterest.  This idea is originally from and is a complilation of 30 items, one assigned daily to photograph.  I didn't follow this list exactly, but it was a fantastic starting point for me to take photos of things of which I am grateful and may not have made the effort to photograph otherwise. From my second photo of the tag book, you can see that I embellished the inside cover, but kept the pages simple and uncluttered, ready to put a cropped photo and journaling on each page. There are 15 pages; once you go through the first 15 days, you flip the book for the second 15 days. The paper was from a "grab bag special" from Close to My Heart a couple years ago and it was the perfect subtle fall theme for this book.  Printing photos and journaling is on tap for this weekend!

I hope this gives you an idea of how to make a simple Gratitude journal for yourself, or to make one for each family member or guest to write in their gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day!

Nov 16, 2012

Pin Made Creations: Tasty Cereal Bars: Easy to Make!

Have you ever purchased a box of cereal and see a recipe on the side that may sound good, but you never get around to making it before the box is thrown away?  That's me too.  However, this week I actually made a recipe that was on the side of my youngest son's favorite cereal, Chocolate Cheerios.  It's like making Rice Krispie treats, but with probably one extra step.  And a couple more ingredients.

When my oldest son Matt likes something, then I am doing pretty good.  Getting a hug for making these tasty cereal bars was a bonus!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars
(courtesy of General Mills)

Prep time:  15 minutes
Total time:  30 minutes
Makes 24 bars

5 cups Chocolate Cheerios cereal
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup salted peanuts
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Spray 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray.  In large bowl, combine cereal, raisins, and peanuts; set aside.  In 2-quart saucepan, place corn syrup and sugars.  Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat.  Stir in peanut butter.  Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture; mix until thoroughly coated.  Spread evenly in pan.  In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips on High 1 minute, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted and smooth.  Drizzle over bars.  Refrigerate 15 minutes or until chocolate is set.  (To drizzle chocolate: place melted chocolate chips in resealable plastic bag.  Cut off small piece of corner; drizzle chocolate over bars.)

NOTE:  At first, I was not going to add the raisins; I thought it an odd addition. Since I hadn't made these before, I went according to the recipe, and the raisins do add another subtle flavor to the bars.  The kids didn't even notice the raisins were there.  I would suggest using the bag tip for drizzling the chocolate; I decided to just drizzle with a spoon, but ended up with big blops of chocolate and had to use a knife to spread the chocolate evenly over the bars. Finally, I cut the rest of the bars in thin rectangles instead of squares, thinking that when unwrapping, it would be easier to eat.

Be sure to try these and add them to your kid's lunches or give them for their school snack.  This recipe is the equivalent of buying four boxes of the other General Mills cereal snacks, which could run about $12. All the ingredients of this recipe were in my cupboard, with the exception of buying a new box of cereal and the bag of chocolate chips, so for me it was a cost of $5.

Nov 12, 2012

Pin Made Creations: A Flavorful Weekend

It felt a little more like fall this weekend -- even though the temps were still a little warm here in Texas, it must have been the time change that brought about my flurry of wanting to make warm foods.

The first comfort food on the list was Chicken Tortilla Soup.  This is actually the first time I have ever made this soup!  Certain foods I am always nervous to try, because when it comes to flavorful Mexican cuisine, my hubs is extremely picky. This recipe was found in my stash, and it looked so easy I figured I would give it a try.  Believe it or not -- it was easy and a real success!  The hubs found it delicious.  If he found it tasty, then I knew it was safe to share.

NOTE:  The recipe is actually called "Chicken Tortilla Stew" and I realized that after simmering, since the "soup" was very thick.  Since I wanted more of a soup than a stew, I just added one more can of chicken broth than is listed here in the recipe.  I also couldn't find the required 10 oz. cans of the enchilada sauce, so the two 15 oz cans that I did buy worked fine.  Just more flavor.  Of course, you can use different temps of enchilada sauce, depending on the taste buds in your house.  Oh, and I also used the suggested rotisserie chicken, and that was superb tasting and easier to do.

This recipe makes enough for about two 4-5 serving meals.  Well worth it.

Chicken Tortilla "Stew" 

4-5 cooked, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, or 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (about 6 cups)
3 cans (14 oz. each) reduced-sodium chicken broth (add one more if you want a thinner consistency)
2 cans (10-15 oz each) mild red or green chili enchilada sauce
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups matchstick or shredded carrots
I cup uncooked long or medium grain rice
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (depending on your taste)
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1-1/2 cups broken tortilla chips
Fresh cilantro leaves, sliced green onions (optional)

Combine:  broth, enchilada sauce, evaporated milk, carrots, rice and cumin in large pot.  Cook over medium-high heat until mixture begins to simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender.  Add chicken and corn; stir well.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon into serving bowls; top with tortilla chips, cilantro and green onions, if desired.  (Shredded cheese is a good option too)

Second on the list was a rerun of another successful recipe of Banana Nut Bread that I found on Pinterest.  Oh. My.Word.  This is absolutely the BEST Banana Nut Bread I have ever made (and I have made a lot of different recipes!)  It is so moist and so flavorful --it is just divine.  My all time favorite treat with coffee in the morning.  The first time I made this, the loaf was gone in one day.  This weekend I made one loaf and a tray of mini loaves, and it's all gone after two days.  It's that good!

So a thankful shout out to Janet -- the original poster of this recipe on  You have made my family very, very happy.

Janet's Rich Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 medium bananas, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5" loaf pan.  In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well.  Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth.  Finally, fold in the sour cream, walnuts and banana.  Spread evenly into the prepared pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

NOTE:   A stick of baking margarine was used instead of butter, and my vanilla was imitation, but it did not alter the delicious result.  My choice is to use very ripe bananas, which I think helps with the moistness of this recipe. For my second batch, the bananas here at home were not very "over ripe", so I sliced two bananas into a microwavable bowl and cooked it on high for 30 seconds to get them a little softer.  After cooling, I added to the recipe.  When baking the mini loaves, I checked them after 30 minutes and they were done perfectly.

Hopefully you will have a chance to try one of these recipes!  Enjoy!