Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Donating Books to Help Kids #NickCFK

Having my Mom read to me is one of my favorite childhood memories. I specifically remember one book in particular - I don't remember the name of the book, but I do remember it was a Christmas story. She must have read that book to me more than a thousand times, per my request I must add. :) Even in the middle of summer, it was my book of choice because I was slowly learning to read it and there was nothing I wanted more than to learn how to read.

Now that I am the Momma to 2 (soon to be 4!) young children, it's my turn to pass the love of reading to them. My husband and I started reading to them when they were still in the womb. I would check out books from the library to read to my unborn children - that is how much I love reading and want to pass my love of it onto them! Having story-time has not stopped since then and both our boys LOVE being read to or just flipping through books on their own.

I couldn't imagine my childhood or my children's lives without books - it honestly makes me sad to even try and imagine it. So much joy and learning would be gone from our lives. When I heard that Champions for Kids' September SSP (Simple Service Project) was to help get books to children who need them - I was game. Reading is something I hold very close to my heart and knew I needed to help somehow.

Did you know that 61% of low income families have no books for children in their homes? And more than 80% of the preschool and after-school programs serving at-risk children have no books at all? The numbers are very upsetting, as I think 1 child with no books is already 1 too many.

So, Champions for Kids teamed up Nickelodeon this month and came up with the Nickelodeon Big Help Book Drive. The ways we can help are so easy! Whether it's starting up your own book drive amongst friends and collecting children's books to donate or putting together a donation of gently used books you have on hand already - every little bit helps. Even 1 book is going to help that 1 kid who doesn't have a book of his/her own.

We decided to buy a few new books to start off our donation, and since it is Nickelodeon who teamed up with Champions for Kids this month - we headed to Walmart (check out our shopping trip on Google+) where I knew some Nickelodeon books would be! I had heard that there was a new Dora the Explorer book out, Dora the Gymnast, but was unable to find it. Lucky for us, there were other Nickelodeon books on hand!

I even had a helper to find books with me. :)

Not to mention was able to check out some extremely cute Halloween items!

I am very happy with the start of our donation. This week we will be searching for more books to add - some from around our house, our friends/family or perhaps even second-hand stores. I can't wait to see how many books we come up with!

The books we collect will be donated to Sacramento Children's Home. I was looking for local organizations that not only help children, but also NEEDS books. Sacramento Children's Home has a wishlist on their site and books is one of the items listed!!

Make sure to check back next week and see how our donation turned out, I am very excited. :)

Follow Champions for Kids on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Nickelodeon on Facebook or Twitter

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Champions for Kids. #NickCFK #CBias

Monday, September 17, 2012

Progresso Light Gift Pack Giveaway

In 5 days we will officially be in the fall season and I am beyond excited. One of my favorite things about the cold weather (I have hundreds, but let's stick to just one this time!) is enjoying a warm cup (or bowl) of soup. It just doesn't feel right eating hot soup on a hot day. So, the fall season is upon us and Progresso is helping me (& one of you) gear up for the cool weather!

First, they have just released two new soups - and let me tell you, I LOVE trying new things! The new soup varieties are Light Creamy Potato with Bacon & Cheese, which boasts pieces of potato with savory bacon and rich cheese flavor, and Light Chicken Pot Pie Style, which exudes a home-style essence with cuts of white-meat chicken, hearty potatoes and classic vegetables. How tasty do both of those sound? 

If you want to give these new soups, or any of the other delicious Progresso Soup varieties a try, here is a link to a coupon for $1.25 off the purchase of 4 cans of  Progresso Soup http://goo.gl/WbbPS

Second, Progresso has provided me (& soon, one of you) with a great Progresso Light gift pack. The gift pack includes a soup mug, lunch tote, water bottle and both of the new soups, Light Creamy Potato with Bacon & Cheese and Light Chicken Pot Pie Style.

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information on Progresso,
visit their website http://goo.gl/lK6CS or
their Facebook page  http://goo.gl/2WZKV

Disclosure: The coupons, information, and gift packs have been provided by Progresso® through MyBlogSpark.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dark Cocoa Almonds

Ok, so the last few posts have been sweets - which is so unlike me, well, the old me. I think I have previously stated how before Mr. Hungry Harp and I were together, I was a salt queen. No need for sugar here, just some french fries could do the trick. But I have since changed and love all things sweet. (Sidenote: I love the word sweet. SWEET!!)

I found these sweet (sorry, that will be the last time I use that word...) little treats while perusing my cookbook collection. Being 17 weeks pregnant with twins has already got me sitting down a bit more and I take the wonderful time to read, usually cookbooks... (although I did find an AWESOMESAUCE book on having twins: Ready or Not, Here We Come! by Elizabeth Lyons - I recommend it to anyone having twins.) This recipe was found in my copy of Slim & Scrumptious by Joy Bauer. I am infamous for owning cookbooks that I never cook from - this one being no exception. This was a good recipe to start with since it came out great - according to all the Hungry Harps!

These Dark Cocoa Almonds are not like milk chocolate covered almonds or cocoa-dusted almonds. They are like something I had never had before, but are wonderful nonetheless. Not to mention incredibly easy - even for a pregnant momma with two toddlers running around the house. :)

Just whip up some egg white and vanilla extract until frothy...

Soak almonds in mixture...

Mix together sugar, cocoa and salt...

COMPLETELY coat almonds with cocoa mixture...

Bake almonds for a total of 40 minutes, flipping once...

Let cool and enjoy!!

Dark Cocoa Almonds - PRINTABLE RECIPE
adapted from Slim & Scrumptious 2010
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups unsalted almonds
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
1. Heat oven to 275.
2. Whisk together egg white and vanilla extract until frothy. Add almonds, ensuring all almonds get completely coated with egg white mixture.
3. Mix together sugar, cocoa and salt.
4. Combine almonds and cocoa mixture, completely coating almonds until no dry powder is left.
5. In a single layer, place almonds on greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from oven and slip almonds over. A spatula works great for this!
6. Let cool completely and enjoy! Some pieces may need to be broken apart by hand.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Del Monte Peach Cheesecake Cups #SmartSnack

If I think back hard enough, I can remember those brown bag lunches my Dad used to make for me. A bologna sandwich (he LOVED(S) bologna), a bag of chips, a pudding cup and a fruit cup. The fruit cups were Del Monte, but not in the plastic cup. They were in little cans, do you remember those? A little pull tab on the top, so you wouldn't need to bring a can opener to school. Oh, I can't forget the plastic spoon that was included with a napkin as well. A plastic spoon was to ensure I wouldn't lose one of our own spoons - good call Dad, good call. :)

Now that I have my own kiddos, who are fruit monsters, I like to keep fruit cups on hand for a quick snack. I try to always have fresh fruit on hand, but we will inevitably run out at some point - and then it's Mom to the rescue! They are also perfect for road trips, or just to have in our "to-go" bag in case one (or both) of our fruit monsters need a little something to hold them over until their next meal.

With school back in session, I know parents everywhere are stocking up on fruit cups to put in their kiddos lunches. My kiddos are not in school, but I was still inspired to make something out of a childhood favorite, even if the packaging has changed. We headed to Walmart to check out the selection of fruit cups, check out our shopping trip on Google+, and were pleased with what we found. No Sugar Added varieties for each selection offered. LOVE IT!!

I was torn between the Mandarin Oranges and the Diced Peaches, but good ol' Diced Peaches won me over. No Sugar Added of course.:)

I gathered up my non-baking supplies - I love that this takes no baking! Sugar, Graham Crackers, Butter, Cheesecake Filling, Whip Cream and of course the Del Monte Diced Peaches - No Sugar Added.

First step is to drain all 4 cups of Diced Peaches, but do not throw those little cups away!

Then mix the drained peaches with cheesecake filling. At first the two won't want to mix, but you just gotta keep at it...

They will eventually get along. :)

Back to those little cups that the peaches came in. Rinse and dry them out, keep them on standby.

Crush graham crackers...

Melt butter...

Mix the two with a little bit of sugar and the crust is ready!

Spoon the crust mixture into fruit cups, dividing it evenly.

Using your fingertips, lightly press down crust into bottom of cups.

Then spoon cheesecake mixture, dividing evenly among the 4 cups, on top of crust. There will be a little bit leftover, just grab some graham crackers and enjoy it. ;)

Let sit in fridge until cheesecake sets back up a bit, about 30 minutes. Top with whip cream and serve your little monsters (and big ones too!) these fun Del Monte Peach Cheesecake Cups! :)

Del Monte Peach Cheesecake Cups - PRINTABLE RECIPE
4 3.75 oz Del Monte Diced Peaches in plastic cups, I used No Sugar Added
12 graham crackers (of the little rectangles), crushed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups cheesecake filling - I used Philadelphia brand
Whip Cream - I used the kind in the can, not tub
1. Drain peaches. Do not throw away plastic cups.
2. Mix peaches with cheesecake filling, set aside.
3. Wash & dry plastic cups, set aside.
4. Mix crushed graham crackers, melted butter and sugar together. Divide evenly over 4 plastic cups. Using fingertips, lightly pack into bottom of cups.
5. Spoon cheesecake mixture on top of crusts, dividing evenly. Let chill for about 30 minutes, or until cheesecake has had a chance to set back up a bit.
6. Spray whip cream on top and enjoy!!

For more information on Del Monte, you can check out their website, http://www.delmonte.com/, like them on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/delmonte, or follow them on Twitter, https://twitter.com/DelMonteFoods. Or if you are looking for more delicious recipes to use your Del Monte fruit cups with, check out Del-Monte Smart Snacks, http://www.delmontefruitcups.com/.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Del Monte #CBias #SocialFabric

Saturday, September 8, 2012

#SnickersMinis Football Cookie Bars

Let me tell you why I love football season so much: I LOVE all the recipes that come out of the woodwork! From the dips to the chilis to the hot wings - every season I find new treasures during good ol' tailgating season. Even non-football fans come up with the most creative recipes, both sweet and savory, to serve up during game-time. Football season is a Foodie Season, or at least that's how I see it. :)

I decided this was the year to share my own little football party recipe! With football season just getting under way, it was time to get cooking. I headed to the store for my baking ingredients - which included my favorite candy bar, Snickers. Check out my shopping trip on Google+.

I was looking for SNICKERS® Brand NFL Minis, they are regular minis - but each wrapper has a different NFL team on them. Unfortunately, my Walmart didn't carry them. :( And honestly, I did pout a little bit. Thankfully I was by myself and the hubby didn't have to witness it. haha

Check out what's going on with Snickers by liking their Facebook Page or following them on Twitter. SNICKERS® are truly my favorite candy bar, so of course I have already done both. :)

With my 40oz bag of SNICKERS® Minis, I headed into the kitchen to whip up some football-inspired sweet treats. I had a couple of beggars looking for some spare SNICKERS® Minis, so I put them to work. My hubby and son did all the chopping for me - they are such sweeties, even if an ulterior motive is present. :)

25 SNICKERS® Minis go into these delicious cookie bars. Each one was cut into 9 pieces.

By getting the 40 oz. bag of SNICKERS® Minis, there are enough to make these cookie bars and then some. We used the extras to serve alongside the cookie bars. This would make a perfect dessert tray for a football party!

Aren't they just adorable?

I also love the size of the SNICKERS® Minis since my self-control goes out the window when I am baking. These are small enough that I don't feel bad if I pop a couple, or three...

What are you serving at the next football party you will be attending? You know that I want to know!!

Snickers Football Cookie Bars - PRINTABLE RECIPE
yields 10 cookie bars
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
25 SNICKERS® Minis
1. Heat oven to 375
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt
3. Cream together butter, sugars and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully combined into mixture. Gradually add flour until just incorporated. Fold in chopped SNICKERS® Minis by hand.
4. Spread mixture into a 13x9 baking pan lined with parchment paper.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let completely cool on wire rack.
6. On a flat surface, use a cookie cutter to cut out preferred shapes.

*For icing: Fill a frosting bag with ½ cup of white baking chips, microwave for 30-45 seconds - until chips are melted, cut small hole in tip and use to make laces on footballs.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and SNICKERS® Brand #CBias #SocialFabric

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Shrimp & Bacon Stuffed Potatoes

These potatoes will knock your socks off, as long as you like shrimp, bacon, cheese and potatoes. ;) I was a little weary about putting shrimp in them, put they turned out great! 

But first I must share a bit of my Pontiac GTO love with you. ♥ The Pontiac GTO is my favorite car, all-time favorite. If I were to win the lotto, there would be a '65 or '66 sitting in our garage, but until then I am just a die-cast GTO collector. 

Anytime I see a GTO, it's a special moment. :) This weekend we went to the Sacramento Auto Museum and were able to see two of my favorite beauties! 

I am just sitting here staring at these pictures, not getting anything accomplished with this post. This may have been a bad idea. lol

What a gorgeous car!

And then Mr. Hungry Harp spotted this for me at the grocery store. How freakin' awesome?!?

Ok, now on to the potatoes. I just couldn't pass up sharing a bit of excitement and happiness from my weekend. :)

These potatoes are easy and delicious, mostly delicious. :) Ok, so first I cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and hollowed out the center. Using a melon baller, the job was easy - using a regular spoon is possible, it just takes a bit more finesse and time.

Next I spread a rather thin layer of a mixture, including spiced brown mustard and seafood seasoning, inside each potato...

... and baked for 30 minutes.

While the potatoes were baking I assembled the cheesy stuffing. It includes shredded gouda cheese,

lightly sauteed shrimp,

bacon, cream cheese and some more seafood seasoning. I mixed all the ingredients together and then

stuffed the potatoes until they couldn't be stuffed anymore. ;) Really until the mixture ran out, which will leave you with heaping stuffed potatoes!

These could be baked in the oven, but I opted to keep the house cool and use the bbq instead. When the cheese was melted I added chopped chives to the top.

My mouth is watering now.

Shrimp & Bacon Stuffed Potatoes - PRINTABLE RECIPE
adapted from BHG.com
4 potatoes
2 tablespoons spiced brown mustard - I used Gulden’s
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons seafood seasoning - I used Old Bay
8 ounce cooked shrimp, peeled
8 ounce cream cheese
1 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled - I used Hormel Black Label Thick Cut
¼ cup fresh chives, snipped
1. Heat oven to 425
2. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise, scoop pulp out of potatoes leaving ¼ inch shell.
3. Mix together mustard, olive oil and 1 teaspoon of seafood seasoning.
4. Brush insides of potato shells with mustard mixture and place on baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
5. Mix together 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning, shrimp, cream cheese, gouda cheese and bacon.
6. Fill baked potatoes with cheese mixture and bake 10-15 minutes more, until cheese is melted and starting to bubble and brown. Sprinkle chives on top and enjoy!