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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts


We started using a cookie jar in our house. Not a big deal, but I do have to say, it is fun catching people with their hand in it! haha

Of course I had to do some customizations to said cookie jar, because that is just what we do in our house. I used to make jokes to my husband that he was like Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor from the 90's sitcom Home Improvement - you know, always "improving" things around the house that didn't necessarily need improving.

Well, I caught the bug. I love to "improve" things as well. Plus, we haven't started any fires yet - so we are all good... thus far.

My one of a kind Think Geek cookie jar!!

But anyway, let's get to these cookies. They don't need any improving, Mr. Hungry Harp already took care of that by adding more chocolate chips than I told him to. His response was that there was no way that more chocolate could ruin these cookies, my response was that I am going to have to keep a better eye on him when he is in the kitchen. ;) Enjoy!!

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts
Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa (I used Hershey's Natural Unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided into 6 & 8 ounces
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped

Directions
1. Heat the oven to 325
2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt
3. Put butter and 6 ounces of chocolate in microwave safe bowl. Cook on high heat for 20 seconds, mix, repeat until smooth. Stir in vanilla
4. With a mixer, beat eggs and sugar together light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add chocolate mixture and mix until well combined
6. Add flour mixture until just combined. Fold in remaining chocolate chips and hazelnuts
5. Drop tablespoon-fulls onto an ungreased baking sheet, about 2 inches apart
6. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until cookies are set
7. Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe Adapted from Crispy Waffle

Winter Care-Kits for St. John's #EnergizerCFK


Last week I posted about the Champions for Kids project of the month, Light Up a Life. CFK teamed up with Energizer and came up with this awesome idea of putting together winter care-kits for an organization that serves children in your community. As soon as I heard about this campaign I was LOVING it!!

We decided to put together 4 care-kits and donate them to St. John's Shelter Program for Women & Children. They are a great organization in Sacramento that exclusively helps homeless women with children. St. John’s helps women become self-sustaining, productive members of society. I immediately knew that this was where I wanted to donate the care-kits we were going to be putting together.

I rounded up the crew (The Hungry Harps) and headed to our favorite store...


For the winter care-kits we were putting together we looked for items such as:

Flashlights – with batteries
Toiletry Kit
First Aid Kit
Gloves
Bottled Water
Kleenex
100% Fruit Juice Boxes
Snacks (Such as granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.)
Notepad & Pens
Something fun (a deck of cards maybe?)
A bag to put it all in

Check out what we found here on Google+.


We had so much fun shopping for items to put in the care-kits. How could I not with these guys??


I was very lucky to have Bubba help me put the kits together. He just turned 3 in December, so he is still a youngin' - but that does not mean he does not want to help!! He decided (with a little help) which items would go in which bag. He did a great job. :)


These are the Energizer flashlights we decided to buy for the care-kits. Aren't they stinkin' cute! I think the kids will like them. :)


Bubba was so proud of the finished bags. We had company over and he kept showing them the bags. I had told him they were going to kids who needed these items and he couldn't wait to deliver them!


Unfortunately he fell asleep on the way St. John's Donation Center. :( I was totally looking forward to seeing him hand the bags over (Not to mention the incredibly cute picture it would have been), but let me tell you - I don't disturb the beast when he is sleeping. (He gets it honestly...) So, I handed the bags to a very nice lady who thought they were AWESOME - which made me smile. We headed home, kids sleeping in the back - feeling incredibly good to be able to help people who are less fortunate than us. I can't wait for next month's Simple Service Project!!

Check out Champions for Kids and/or their Simple Service Projects!

And we can't forget about Energizer!!

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cheddar Cauliflower


I didn't know that Cauliflower came in any color other than white until we received a head of Cheddar Cauliflower in our produce box last week! I was excited. :) After doing a little research online, I found out that besides white and orange, cauliflower also comes in purple and green (Broccoflower), how did I not know about this? Imagine how much fun they would make a veggie tray with all that color! The Cheddar Cauliflower was a bit sweeter than white cauliflower and it also contains 25x the amount of Vitamin A. We just sauteed it in a little bit of olive oil with salt & pepper until tender. Delicious!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Messy Jessie Sandwich


It's probably a little corny to name a sandwich after yourself, but I did it anyway. I have no problem with being a little corny, it makes life more fun. :) Sloppy Joes were the inspiration for this sandwich - and I have been called Messy Jessie since I was little - so to name it a Messy Jessie was just too perfect!

We had this little creation the other night for dinner and it was a HIT!! People were just eating the sandwich filling out of the pot without a bun. It looks pretty good - it tastes even better. Enjoy!!

Messy Jessie Sandwich
Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs chicken breasts, cubed
salt & pepper to taste
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, drained (I used S&W Ready Cut - Italian Recipe)
1/4 cup pesto
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions
1. In skillet, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add chicken and saute until cooked. You may need to drain your chicken as it tends to give off a lot of liquid - just drain and return to heat to continue cooking. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add tomatoes to chicken and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Make sure it is well blended and some of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated.
3. Add pesto and ricotta cheese, stir thoroughly. Let cook for 2 minutes and then remove from heat.
4. Stir in Mozzarella
5. Serve over buns and enjoy!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Champions for Kids - Energizer Light Up a Life #EnergizerCFK


This post is not about an awesome new recipe or product I have discovered, it is about something much more important.

When I started researching the statistics of homeless people in the Sacramento area I was very saddened to see that there are about 2300 homeless people on any given day, this number includes children – and about 30 of them are children without an adult. My husband and I were at a loss at how 30 children could possibly be all by themselves in our area – so I did more researching. The facts are sad, if a child becomes homeless before the age of 15 it is most likely due to them trying to escape sexual or violent abuse. They run away from home because they deem it to be safer on the streets than at home. This is truly heart-breaking. Most children that runaway will do so at the age of 13, but some have been as young as 6 years old. These are not kids being bratty because their parents won’t buy them an iPod, these are kids that are trying to escape a bad situation and survive on their own without any help. But they need help – they are just kids. This is where Champions for Kids comes in…
“Champions for Kids works to mobilize MILLIONS of people by providing training and resources to improve the lives of children in communities across America and beyond."

I took the quote above from the Champions for Kids website. You may be wondering who these “MILLIONS” of people are – well let me tell you my friend, it’s people like me and you. We can all help – and Champions for Kids keeps coming up with creative, effective ways we can help the less fortunate children in our area. For their most recent Simple Service Project, CFK has teamed up with Energizer and created the Light Up a Life campaign. It’s real simple, hence the name Simple Service Project. ;) The project is to assemble Safety Kits with items that children would need out in the elements this winter and then give the kit(s) to a shelter, school or other community organization that helps children in your area. I told you it was easy – and it’s effective, this is why I love their campaigns!!


Hungry Harps has decided to put together 4 (one for each of us) safety kits for the Light Up a Life project and give them to St. John’s Shelter Program for Women & Children. St. John's assists families in transitioning from crisis to self-sustainability. They are not just shelter for an overnight stay – they help teach the skills necessary to obtain employment and give ongoing support towards living independently (without government assistance) as self-sufficient and productive citizens. I love everything about this – they are really helping these women and children get on their feet and setting them up for success.

We will be putting together our kits this weekend and delivering them to St. John’s. I am so excited about our 3 year old being able to help, he was my little helper with the Disney Stocking Stuffer project back in December too. :) Here is what we have on the list for the kids safety kits:

Flashlights – with batteries
Bottled Water
100% Fruit Juice Boxes
Granola Bars, Fruit Snacks, PB&J Crackers
Gloves
Toiletry Kit
First Aid Kit
Kleenex
Notepad & Pens
Playing Cards (I ♥ cards)
A bag to put it all in

I can’t wait to put the kits together. My parents will be coming over as well to help add to the goodies. It feels so good to give to those in need – I hope I inspired at least one of you to help out any way you can. Thanks for reading!!

If you want to learn more about Champions for Kids and/or their Simple Service Projects, here is the info to find them on the internet:

If you want to learn more about Energizer, here is their info:

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies


I had a box of Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake mix on hand but I really didn't want cake, so I went to their site in search of something else I could make with it. I found this recipe for cookies and added some chocolate chips to it. The recipe is too easy and the cookies are de-freaking-liscious!

Also, I while I was checking out the Duncan Hines site, I found a new product!! Frosting Creations - a frosting & flavor mix system where you mix your own frosting flavor. It appears as though there will be a flavorless frosting sold alongside a selection of flavor packets that can be stirred into the frosting to create a desired flavor. There are 9 flavors; I am really wanting to try the Mocha. I do love trying new things - so I will be sure to pick this up when I see it at the store.  Just wanted to share!

Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients
1 box Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Red Velvet Cake Mix (I assume any brand would work, but you know what they say about assumptions...)
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix cake mix, eggs and oil together until well combined
3. Fold in chocolate chips
4. On an ungreased cookie sheet, drop tablespoonfuls of cookie batter about 2" apart
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until starting to crisp around the bottom edges
6. Let cool
7. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Oreo!!


Happy 100th Birthday Oreo!! 

There is no way I could let this event go by without at least mentioning it. Oreo's official birthday is not until March 6th, so this post is a little early - but I couldn't wait and jeopardize all of you not being able to grab a bag of the Limited Edition Birthday Cake Oreos. :) I got my bag from Walmart where there was a HUGE display set up for them. (Blogger fail for not taking a picture)

I am LOVIN' the sprinkles in the Oreos - too awesome!!

We toasted our glasses (of milk) in honor of our favorite cookie, Oreo, and enjoyed the Limited Edition Birthday Cake Oreos. The cookies were tasty and it was fun being part of the Oreo celebration. Check out what Oreo is doing for their 100th here - some fun stuff. :)

Mr. Hungry Harp better watch out, looks like we have a hand-model in the making here with Bubba. ;)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

#LaRomanella Meatball Lasagna with Pesto


I swear that making lasagna is therapy to my soul. I am always relaxed by the time I am done cooking it and am in a refreshed mood. I love doing crafts for this reason - they are very relaxing to me. But there is something about lasagna that takes all of my tension away and leaves me feeling renewed.

We headed to Smart & Final to get the ingredients for the Meatball Lasagna with Pesto. Smart & Final carries a line of products, La Romanella, that rock! Since the first time I tried them, I have been hooked - and it's not just the quality I am in love with, it's also the price. You don't have to break the bank to eat good! Check out all the La Romanella products I found at Smart & Final on my Google+ album. Here is a sample of what we saw:


The only thing we didn't buy at Smart & Final was the Ricotta cheese, and I am totally kicking myself for forgetting it since La Romanella has their own Ricotta cheese that I would love to try!! Here are the goods for our lasagna:


I am going to sidetrack for a second here and share with you that La Romanella's Basil Pesto is so tasty! We actually bought two containers of it - one for this lasagna and one to enjoy in another dish.


I used it to make a Pesto-Cheese sauce for the lasagna. Delicious!


I decided to saute the mushrooms and olives in a little olive oil with salt and pepper before adding them to the lasagna. It took out a bit of the moisture, which I didn't want in the lasagna, and it gave them more flavor.


#LaRomanella Meatball Lasagna with Pesto
Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 cups shredded cheese, pizza or Italian style
¼ cup La Romanella Original Basil Pesto plus 2 tablespoons
10 lasagna noodles – cooked according to package
8 oz ricotta cheese
16 oz can mushrooms - pieces & stems, drained
3.8 oz can sliced ripe olives, drained
28 oz La Romanella Tomato Strips with Basil, drained
1 package La Romanella cooked Italian Style 1 Ounce Meatballs

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350
2. In medium pot melt 2 tablespoons of butter, just until sizzling. Add 2 tablespoons flour and whisk for 4 minutes, making a blonde roux. Slowly add milk and heavy cream while whisking – whisk until smooth. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and add 3 cups shredded cheese. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes while continuously stirring to ensure smoothness of cheese mixture. Remove from heat and stir in pesto.
3. Spread 2 tablespoons pesto in bottom of 8x8 baking pan
4. For the first layer place ingredients in the following order:

• Noodles
• Ricotta cheese
• Mushrooms & Olives
• Pesto-Cheese sauce
• La Romanella Tomato Strips with Basil
• 1 cup of shredded cheese

*Whenever I make lasagna I do not measure the ingredients for each layer – I really just eyeball how many ingredients I have and split it up evenly over the layers.

5. For the second layer, place ingredients in the same order, adding meatballs after the ricotta cheese but before the mushroom mixture. This will cause the mushrooms and olives to surround the meatball and hold it in place. Use as many or little meatballs as you like – I ended up using only 8, but there was room for plenty more.
6. For the third layer, only use noodles, pesto-cheese sauce and shredded cheese.
7. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.
8. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.
9. Let cool, for at least 20 minutes.
10. Enjoy!


If you care about the presentation of your lasagna you will want to let it cool longer than I did. It was not too pretty served up on a plate - however, it was not lacking in flavor one bit!

I also want to share that anyone who decides to give Smart & Final’s La Romanella line a try before March 6th can go to www.smartandfinal.com/LaRomanella2012 and enter a code on the receipt from their purchase of La Romanella product(s) and be entered to win some awesome prizes including an Italian-themed weekend trip to Las Vegas, $100 Smart Cards and baskets worth over $50 in La Romanella products! Check it out!!

If you get the chance to visit www.smartandfinal.com/LaRomanella2012 you can also vote for your favorite La Romanella recipe. If you have the time it would be awesome for you to pop over there and vote for this recipe. Trust me when I tell you, it is delicious!! :)

One last thing, and then I will let you go. ;) The recipe calls for 28 oz La Romanella Tomato Strips with Basil, drained. Don't let what you drain go to waste. Save the liquid and heat up as tomato soup for lunch the next day, it is so good. Goes even better with a grilled cheese sandwich. :) Thanks for reading!! 


This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias #CBias

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cookie Decorating Coffee Klatch #IcedCoffee


This past weekend we had company over for some conversation, cookie decorating and most importantly – coffee!! It was our very first coffee klatch and it was a blast. We were able to catch up with our friends & family, decorate Valentine’s Day themed cookies and try International Delight’s new Iced Coffee.

I just love International Delight’s coffee creamers, my current favorite is their Limited Edition Cinnabon flavor - a must try! When I heard that ID was coming out with an iced coffee that could be served at home – I knew I had to try it and decided to share the excitement with some guests. :)

International Delight uses Arabica coffee which has a rich, smooth flavor on its own – it works perfectly with this Iced Coffee.

The verdict? Everyone liked it! It is a great alternative to going to a coffee shop for iced coffee – plus, the price can’t be beat at $4 a half gallon. I have not found any coffee shops with prices like that! We tried all three flavors – Mocha, Vanilla and Original. Mocha was everyone’s favorite and Vanilla came in 2nd. Flavored syrups can be added for customized flavors – Hazelnut Mocha, Caramel Vanilla and the list could just keep going. :)

For some morning snacks we had doughnut holes and fresh berries served with chocolate and caramel syrups. It was a perfect pairing with the iced coffees!


After tasting the coffee we all sat down together to decorate cookies. It was a great way to spend time together, not to mention that it is extremely fun to decorate cookies!!


Everyone got their own cookie bundle and then there was cookie frosting, sprinkles and gel to decorate.


A few of our creations!


Even little man got some help in decorating his cookie. Such a big boy!


We had a wonderful morning and can't wait to do it again! If you want to find out more about International Delight's new Iced Coffee, check them out on Facebook and/or Twitter. I can't wait for our next coffee klatch - perhaps a St. Patrick's Day Cookie Decorating Coffee Klatch in March!

Check out our adventure of purchasing International Delight's Iced Coffee here on Google+!


This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias

Monday, February 6, 2012

Midnight in Paris "Date Night" & Apple-Pecan Brie Cheese #CouchCritics


Instead of going out to the movies we decided to have a "Date Night" at home this past weekend. Not only did it save $$ on a babysitter (we just waited until they went to bed for the night to start our "date") but we were also able to have much better snacks than what the movie theater offers. And you know the Hungry Harps wanted some snacks while movie watching. ;)


We decided to rent Midnight in Paris starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. I am not a huge fan of Romantic-Comedies - but I like both the main stars and was hoping that since the movie takes place in Paris, there would be some gratuitous food shots. After all, Paris is not only the City of Love - it is also the home of fine dining. I know, a silly reason to pick a movie but I am an extreme foodie - I LOVE all things food!!

There is a Blockbuster Express inside our local Safeway grocery store - so we went online to Blockbuster Express to see if Midnight in Paris was available there. Lucky for us, it was available and we were able to reserve it online!! Let me tell you, reserving it online made it SO easy to pick up the movie. All we had to do was swipe the card we used to reserve the movie and out it popped! For some rental deals check out Blockbuster Express on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out our shopping adventure here on Google+


After we picked up our movie it was time to pick out what we wanted to snack on. Since the movie takes place in France - I headed straight to the Brie Cheese. 1, because I LOVE cheese and 2, because it is French. Safeway has a pretty good selection, they even carry Brie Bites which I had never seen before.


The wine was right next to the cheese - it just felt right to grab a bottle for our date night. Safeway had Sutter Home on sale for $3, so I grabbed a bottle of Merlot.


I can't forget to tell you about this find! Sabra Basil Pesto Hummus. I couldn't grab it fast enough. :) I can't believe I didn't know about this - but let me tell you, I will not be forgetting about it anytime soon! There was a wall of Pita Chips next to the Hummus - easy peasy!


Our finished "Date Night" tray! Apple-Pecan Brie Cheese, Grapes, Basil Pesto Hummus, Salami, Colby Jack Cheese, Table Water Crackers and Pita Chips. Everything tasted wonderful. The Brie Cheese knocked Mr. Hungry Harps socks off - it truly is delicious. I have also found a new love, that Basil Pesto Hummus. My favorite Sabra flavor is still the Roasted Pine-Nut, but Basil Pesto is now a very, very close second. :)


So, about that Apple-Pecan Brie Cheese...

It is super easy. First get your cheese and an oven-safe dish. Heat the oven to 350 and place cheese in dish. I found this round dish at the dollar store. Score!!


Top cheese with chopped apples, pecans, cinnamon and maple syrup. I didn't measure anything, just added ingredients until I was happy with how it looked.


Bake for 15 minutes or until apples are tender.


Serve immediately and enjoy!


Our "Date Night" rocked! The movie was good, the food was better and I could not ask for a better date. ;)

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias