1/25/15

Superbowl Food - Guest Post


Though the big game is one of the most anticipated events of the year, let’s be honest: half the reason people attend a Super Bowl party is the food. Whether or not your team wins the game, if you have good food, your party will end as a victory. For ideas on how to make that come to pass at your party this year, consider these foodie tips.

Snack Ideas

You may have some tried and true recipes that you love, but you might also want to consider some of these snack ideas. Keep in mind that your guests probably won’t want to pause their game to sit at a table for their meal, so you’ll want your food to be a buffet table with appetizers rather than a sit down dinner. Here are some fan favorite food ideas.

Mini Pizzas

These are not only delicious, but also super easy. Just flatten out some canned biscuit dough and add your choice of sauces, cheeses, and toppings before baking. Give your guests a variety of options to choose from. You’ll probably want cheese and pepperoni pizzas for picky eaters, but also make some of your favorite topping combinations, like Hawaiian, BBQ chicken, jalapenos and sausage, and chicken, bacon, and ranch.

Tailgating Food

Make the atmosphere of your party feel like you’re at the actual game by offering tailgating food. Fire up your grill, and slap on some hot dogs, burgers, BBQ marinated ribs, kabobs, and roasted vegetables (for your vegetarian guests). These delightful foods are sure to be a hit.

Team-Specific Sugar Cookies

Make some sugar cookies in the shape of a jersey and frost them to resemble the jerseys of each of the players on your favorite team. For example, if you were supporting the Green Bay Packers, you would want to frost the cookie dark green, then write Rogers at the top with white icing and the number 12 underneath it.

Sliders

Since you won’t want to make a full course meal, create a selection of sliders. These sandwiches are easier to make and less messy, so your guests can eat their fill of delicious pulled pork, hamburger, rib meat, and roast beef sandwiches without being tied to a table.

Chips and Dip

You’ll need a variety of chip flavors and plenty of dips to keep the party going. Pick up some tortilla chips (these are best in scoop shapes for optimal dipping), flavored corn chips, and potato chips. Then get a plethora of dips, or try your hand at making your own. Guacamole and your favorite salsa are game day musts, but you can also get bean and chili dips.

Popcorn

Popcorn is always a crowd pleaser, especially if you make a variety of flavors. You’ll want a large bowl of butter popcorn as well as a selection of caramel, chocolate covered, cheddar, and ranch flavored popcorn to please a range of audiences.

Pigs in a Blanket

With some canned biscuit dough and mini hot dogs, you can make a crowd favorite. Pigs in a blanket are a popular item at any football game.

Serving Tips

It’s integral to have delicious tasting food, but it’s also important for it to look good and be easy to serve. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

Pay Attention to Details

The details for a football party are just as important as any other party, even though it may not seem like it. You’ll want to deck out your table to match the occasion. Get a table cloth that looks like a football field and layer finger sandwiches in the shape of a football stadium. These details will make your food look even more appetizing.

Appearance is Half the Battle

There’s a reason many cooking competitions judge 50 percent on taste and 50 percent on appearance. Food that looks good tastes better. Whether you’re focusing on making sure your pigs in a blanket are browned perfectly or on arranging your platter of mini pizzas in the shape of a football, your attention to the appearance of your food will make a big difference in the end.

Organize Your Buffet

A dysfunctional buffet line can be a real letdown at any party. You’ll want to organize the food so that it’s easy to access and goes in order of the way most people like to load their plates. Check out this article for tips on organizing your buffet. Though it’s based around setting up Thanksgiving dinner, the tips still apply for any party.

No matter the outcome of the Super Bowl, the party will be a victory if you have mouthwatering food available.

Amber Brubaker
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1/3/15

Slow Cooker Broccoli Potato Cheese Soup







Holy smokes has it been cold in Las Vegas.  It always gets cold for a week or two, but it always
catches me off guard.  Every time.  My body just is not acclimated for the cold weather any more.  Even Bodie, our Australian Shepherd who is COVERED with thick fur, hates the cold.  He has been jumping up on the bed and snuggling my legs every single night.  We even had our first chance for snow this past week.  Yup, it's a bit chilly out there.








And whenever it gets cold like this, nothing sounds better to me than a big bowl of creamy soup.  This time, for some reason, broccoli just sounded so good.  But I wanted it a bit heartier than just broccoli and cheese.  Throw in some potato!  Mmmmmm.  Top it with bacon.  Because bacon makes everything taste better.  And we have an instant family favorite.  The Hubs was asking me to make it again even before he was done eating.  And that my friends, is awesome.




Slow Cooker Broccoli Potato Cheese Soup


Ingredients:


1/4 cup butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 can evaporated milk
1 box (32 oz.) chicken broth
1 bag (16 oz.) frozen broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups frozen southern style hash browns
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
12 oz. prepared cheese product, cubed
1 1/2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Bacon bits for topping
Extra cheese for topping

Directions:

1. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add onion and cook until tender.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Slowly pour in milk, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.  Remove from heat.

3. Pour broccoli and potatoes into slow cooker.  Add broth, pepper, salt, and onion mixture and stir to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

4. Add cubed cheese to soup and stir until melted.  Add cheddar and parmesan cheeses.  Stir until melted.

5. Serve immediately with bacon bits and extra cheddar cheese.

Serves 8
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1/1/15

31 Day Household Declutter Detox

Happy 2015!  I am so looking forward to this year - changes, goals, and big events happening over here at the Yates house.  Do you have resolutions that you've made for the year?  I do.  My list may be a little long, but it is comprised of some fairly small and precise goals.  I don't have any real grandiose goals (except of course the usual weight loss resolution), just a bunch of small ones to get my life where I want it to be in 2016.

The first one is to get my house in gear.  While having one of my nightly Pinterest perusing rituals - which means I sit in the dark, in my bed, The Hubs snoring away next to me - I came across a series of posts form Jenn over at Clean and Scentsible about getting your house organized over the course of a year.  And how excited was I that she decided to start this series all over again for 2015?!  Um, SO FREAKING EXCITED!  And I am sharing this post with my you because it's just so very simple and basic, it's ingenious.  So, here's her post for the 2015, 31 Day Household Declutter/Detox.  Give it a read, schedule out each day, and let's all get our houses sorted out over this year!  And please, give her some love while you are at it!


So who is ready to make 2015 the most organized year ever?
This 31 day decluttering challenge will jumpstart your way to a totally organized home in 2015! //cleanandscentsible
The Household Organization Diet is back again for 2015!!  Whether you need to organize a little or a lot, this is the plan for you!   If you are not familiar with The Household Organization Diet, it is best to start with this post HERE, but the basic plan is to thoroughly clean and organize one room per month and develop some simple organization habits to help you stay organized once you get there.  I will have a monthly to-do list with free printables and tons of inspirational ideas to help you out along the way, so I hope you will join me!
Once again, we will once again be starting things off with a 31 day decluttering challenge to clear all of that obvious unwanted and unused “stuff” out of your life.  Think of it as a detox diet for your house to jumpstart your decluttering and organization habits.  For the next month we will be doing a quick rundown of our homes and getting rid of at least 10 items per day {I’m actually aiming for 20+ so don’t let this limit you!}  We will be going more thoroughly through each room during the year so we are not going to be doing any time consuming projects and re-organizing during this time.  Just 15 minutes per day – anywhere you would like.  
This year I have set up a daily plan to cover pretty much every area of your house.  Feel free to follow along or pick and choose what areas of your home need the most work.  For extra cluttered spots, you may want to spend 2 or 3 days going through things and skip some of the other tasks.  It is all up to you!

Just a few tips before you get started…

  1. Remember that this is just a quick decluttering.  We have a whole year of organization ahead of us so don’t get burned out now!
  2. Stay focused. If you have a lot of decluttering to do, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.  Just remember – it is only 15 minutes and it is only one small space.  Pull out only what you have time for.  You don’t want a bigger mess in the end than what you started with!
  3. Have a donate bin {or two!} handy.  Trust me.  You will probably be making multiple trips down to Goodwill this month.  Have a bin or tote {and garbage bag!} nearby when you are decluttering to sort out all of your items that you will be getting rid of as you come to them.
  4. Don’t let perfection get in the way.  Again, this is a quick decluttering.  Spend all of your timegetting rid of things and we will be coming back to make things look pretty later.
  5. If you come across items that belong elsewhere when you are decluttering, put them away where they belong!

Here is the plan for the month…

Day 1: Paperwork.
Do you have a pile of paperwork {or two?} collecting on your kitchen counter or in your home office?  Go through bills, receipts, and any other paperwork, tossing {or shredding} what you don’t need and sorting whatever is left over into its proper location.
Day 2: Front entry way and coat closet/mudroom.
Donate any coats, shoes, or accessories that you no longer use.  If you are short on space, put items that are out of season into storage somewhere else in your home.
Day 3: Purse. 
Empty out all garbage and items that you do not use regularly.  Use a small pouch to hold make-up and other essentials that can easily be transferred from purse to purse.
Day 4: Cleaning supplies.Go through your cleaning supplies {wherever they may be!} and get rid of all of those products that you don’t use.  Try to use multipurpose cleaners or green cleaning products whenever possible.  If you have multiple partially filled bottles of the same product, combine them into one bottle.  Toss any old rags or cloths that are at the end of their use.
Day 5: Fridge and Freezer.Remove all items from that are expired or you know you will not use.  Minimize packaging when possible to save space.  Find other organization ideas HERE.
Day 6: Pantry and other dry food storage.Toss all items that are expired and get rid of anything that you know you will not use.  Don’t forget to go through all of those spices too! Place items that will be expiring soon towards the front of the cupboard.
Day 7: Free for All.
This is your catch up day if you didn’t finish any of the above areas.  If you are all caught up, pick the most cluttered area in your home to go through.
Day 8: Kitchen Cabinets.Look for any kitchen items that you do not use or have room for. Ensure that all Tupperware has matching lids and eliminate as many unnecessary kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, and utensils as you can.  You can see how ours are organized HERE.
Day 9: Medicine Cabinet/First Aid Supplies.
Medicine is actually best stored outside of the bathroom in a cool, dry place out of the reach of children.  Go through all medications and look for items that are expired or that you no longer need.  Return expired medications to your local pharmacy for proper disposal.  Find more ideas HERE.
Day 10: Dining Area.Commit to keeping your table clutter free.  Find storage solutions for all items that frequently find their way to the table.  Donate any dishes, serving ware, or other items that you do not use.
Day 11: Entertainment Area.Make sure all CDs, DVDs etc are in their proper cases and evaluate what you really will use.  Music and videos are so easily accessible through our computers and mobile devices, that your CDs and DVDs may be a thing of the past.
Day 12: Magazines and Books.Let go of your magazine hoarding and get rid of any outdated editions.  Cut out pages that you would like to keep and sort into a filing system.  Recycle or donate old books that you will no longer read and sort the rest in a logical order.
Day 13: Junk drawer.Get rid of everything that is not needed.  If you have time, use inexpensive plastic containers to store similar items together.  Put items that belong elsewhere away.
Day 14: Free for All.
This is your catch up day if you didn’t finish any of the above areas.  If you are all caught up, pick the most cluttered area in your home to go through.
Day 15: Desk.File away any needed paperwork and shred remaining papers.  Sort smaller office supplies and only keep products that you use.  Get rid of those 2014 calendars!
Day 16: Bathroom cabinets.Go through all beauty products and keep only what you really use.  Do you really need all of those hotel shampoo bottles?
Day 17: Linen closet.Donate any linens that you no longer use that are still in good condition.  Toss any items that are really dingy or have holes.
Day 18: Make-up.Toss anything that is expired, cracked or no longer your style.  Pick your favorites and get rid of those other 10 lipstick tubes that you never wear!  To find out more about the recommended shelf-life for various make-up, check out this post on how to organize your makeup.
Day 19: Jewellery.Sort through all of your jewellery and decide what items you still wear. Donate or toss the rest!  If anything you would like to keep needs cleaning or repairs, put them aside to take care of as soon as you can.
Day 20: Bedroom closet.Sort through all clothing and ask yourself if you would still buy it today. If not, it is time for it to go!
Day 21: Free for All.
This is your catch up day if you didn’t finish any of the above areas.  If you are all caught up, pick the most cluttered area in your home to go through.
Day 22:  Sock and underwear drawer.Go through all of those socks and underwear.  Make sure you have matching socks with no holes and only keep what you still wear.
Day 23: Nightstand.Clear off table top and sort through drawers keeping only what you would need before bed or during the night.
Day 24: Kids’ Toys.This is always a fun one.  Sort through toys to see what your kids still use {and have your kids help out on this one if they are old enough}.  Check to see that toys have all parts and are in working order before donating or selling.  Toss the rest!
Day 25: Kids’ Closets
Check to see what clothes still fit and donate the old ones or sort them into a labeled storage bin if you are saving them for younger children.
Day 26: Craft space.Be ruthless and really evaluate what items you still need and use.  Schools will often take extra supplies that you are looking to get rid of.
Day 27: Laundry Room.Sort through cupboards for any laundry products that are old or not used.  Toss any unpaired socks that are hanging around.
Day 28: Free for All.
This is your catch up day if you didn’t finish any of the above areas.  If you are all caught up, pick the most cluttered area in your home to go through.
Day 29: Basement.Chances are this is one of the biggest source of clutter.  Set a timer and try to get rid of as many items as possible.  Use large storage totes to store seasonal items together.
Day 30: Garage.This one is also a big clutter offender.  Again, set a timer and collect as many items as you can that you no longer use or need.
Day 31: Car.Grab two bags – one for garbage and one for anything that needs to go back in the house.  Put everything away in its proper place that you bring back into the house.
Since there is always more strength in numbers, I would love for you guys to join me on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook for some daily organization inspiration and support.  And, if you add the hashtag #OrganizationDiet to your post, all we will need to do is search the hashtag for instant organization ideas!  As much as I love Facebook, the changes that they have made have made it very difficult for me to stay connected with you guys there, so please interact with the posts {like it, comment, or share} if you would like to actually see them in your feed.  Otherwise, Facebook will just keep it to themselves. :(
Okay, so are you ready to begin?  I promise that it will be worth the effort in the end!
The Household Organization Diet is back for 2015!! Follow this year long plan to put your home on a diet and get things organized once and for all! // cleanandscentsible.com
**This post is part of my Household Organization Diet series.  You can join in anytime – just start with these two posts here and here.  If you are looking for past projects, you can find them all on my Pinterest board.**
Happy Organizing!

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12/12/14

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer


...is singing loud for all to hear!

I am so excited to be a part of Chicken Scratch n Sniff's Christmas Advent!  I get to share with you  one of my favorite parts of Christmas - music.  Every song has a different memory attached to it for me.  I remember sitting in front of our Christmas tree in the evenings, lights out, snow outside the window, and cranking up the stereo while it was playing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Silent Night.  My mom loved John Denver's "Aspenglow."  My grandparents always had Bing Crosby playing on the record player.

If you ever want to check out what I am listening to, it's easy.  Just click on this link to go to Pandora and listen to Cat Yates Christmas Favorites!  It's full of classics, contemporary, jazz, and all the greats.  It's perfect for listening to while you are decorating or baking or cruising around the neighborhood to see lights.

But I think my favorite Christmas music of all time has to be The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas albums.  All of them.  They constantly remind me of the real reason for Christmas - the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I feel the spirit so strongly whenever I listen to their music.  9 times out of 10 it brings me to tears.  It is so beautiful.




I have a friend that I went to college with who is so uberly talented.  Her name is Kamie Jacobs Bolen.  She was a music major and lived close to me so we spent a lot of time together studying.  This lady has recently produced her very first Christmas album.  And holy smokes you guys, it is so awesome.  It's called "Christmas In a Small Town."  It's the most recent addition to my music library.  And because Kamie rocks, she is offering each of my readers a 20% discount on her album!  Just click on the image below to go to her website and enter the code ADVENT14.


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and sneak in some music to help you feel the spirit of the season.  And to finish, one more MoTab for the road:



Don't forget to swing by Chicken Scratch n Sniff to check out all the other advents!


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12/10/14

Stocking your kitchen for the holidays


Who's getting ready for some serious baking over the next two weeks? Me! You? I've started on my annual cookie baking as well as a few candies. Can't forget the sweet and yeast breads! Oh dear, I feel 20 pounds coming back on! Once again, I'm fortunate to be able to share a wonderful article with you on stocking your kitchen up for the holidays. Thank you to Amber Brubaker for sharing!

Key Ingredients for the Holidays


Just because Thanksgiving was last month doesn’t mean there won’t be any more baking days this year. The holidays are filled with the best foods to share with friends and family. You don’t want to be found without an essential ingredient in your kitchen when you need to make an impromptu side dish or dessert for a party or gathering. The secret is to stock up now on essential holiday ingredients.

Lucky for you, most of the essential items go on sale during the weeks following Thanksgiving, so you can rest assured that you are stocking up at the best prices. Use this comprehensive guide to help you complete your shopping list and store the ingredients properly.

Candies


You’ll want a selection of candies for both baking and serving. Chopped up candies are great in treats, and when friends come calling, you can offer them a candied treat from a pretty dish on your coffee table.

Butter


Butter is one of the most expensive baking essentials. Luckily, it stays good for awhile, especially if you freeze it. So when it’s on sale, stock up, freeze it, and simply thaw it when you need it. For your holiday preparations, you’ll want both salted and unsalted butter—salted for spreading and cooking and unsalted for baking.

Margarine and Shortening


Similar to butter, these can be frozen too. Certain recipes specifically call for margarine or shortening and you can’t use butter as a substitute. For example, using butter instead of shortening may ruin your pie crust.

Meats


If you see a great deal on meats—particularly ham and turkey—snatch up as much as you can. These meats have plenty of natural salt in them and will last in your freezer for up to six months if put in good quality, freezer-safe bags. You’ll have plenty of protein for the holidays and after.

Sugars


You’ll need brown and white—and plenty of it—for baking, and confectioners sugar for frosting and sprinkling. Store all sugar in waterproof, airtight containers.

Store-Bought Crackers and Cookies


It’s always a good idea to have these on hand for a last-minute addition to a party. Cookies also make easy pie crusts or dessert toppings when crumbled.

Flour


Flour is a must, and you’ll want different kinds, including, whole wheat, all-purpose white, and cake flour. There’s also white wheat flour, which offers all the health benefits of wheat flour with a lighter, fluffier taste. Store your bulk flour in waterproof, airtight containers to avoid contamination.

Powdered Milk


Fresh milk is difficult to buy in bulk, since it quickly expires. To work around this, get a supply of powdered milk which you can mix up for baking or cooking at a moment’s notice when you’re out of milk.

Leavening Agents


Leaveners like baking soda, baking powder, and yeast, will last for years, but it’s still good to change them out every now and then. The holiday season is a perfect time to do just that. Store your fresh baking soda and powder in airtight containers in the cupboard, and store yeast in the fridge or freezer.

Extracts and Flavorings


If you’re going to bake anything at all, you will need a good supply of vanilla, but it’s also a good idea to stock up on other flavorings, especially if you love trying new recipes or want to make candies. For the holidays, don’t forget almond, peppermint, lemon, anise, rum, and any other flavorings you love.

Heavy Cream


You can store heavy cream in the freezer for up to two months, which is perfect for the holidays. Get as much as you can when it goes on sale, and then thaw it for all your whipped cream and topping needs.

Liquid Sweeteners


Molasses, light and dark corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and maple syrup are must-haves for any candy making you’ll do during the holidays. You’ll want to have agave nectar and liquid stevia on hand as well in case you’re baking for those with specific food needs.

Canned Goods


Canned goods are fabulous because they last. Stock up on corn, green beans, pumpkin, pie fillings, yams, beets, evaporated milk, and all the other delicious canned foods you love at holiday meals. Stack these carefully on your shelf to avoid injury.

Dried Fruit and Nuts


Dried fruits and nuts make great add-ins for cookies, candies, and pies, and they’re fantastic for snacking. Stock up on dried apricots, dates, raisins, cranberries, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, and anything else you like.

Spices and Herbs


Contrary to popular belief, spices and herbs don’t last forever. In fact, they begin to lose their potency six months after opening. Use the holiday shopping as an excuse to replace some spices. If nothing else, you’ll want to replace cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger, sage, rosemary, thyme, and your other favorite spices. Try using these classic spices to make something new. For example, did you know you can use cloves in a glaze for your meat? Click here for other ideas.   

Chocolate and Chips


A solid collection of chocolates and chips to add to your cookies and desserts will get you through the holidays. You’ll want unsweetened bakers chocolate, cocoa powder, and high-quality dipping chocolate. You’ll also want every kind of chip imaginable for the best cookies. Store these in cute cannisters along your kitchen counter to keep them fresh.

With these ingredients filling your kitchen, you won’t have any problems making the best holiday foods!  
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12/3/14

Getting More Out of Your Kitchen


We're heavy into the holiday season now, and food is something that surrounds all of the holidays.  Something I cannot stress enough is the importance of your kitchen - the safety, the cleanliness, and general tips to make the most of your kitchen.  Here's a great article written by Whitney Hollingshead on these issues.  Take 5 minutes out of your busy holiday schedule to make sure your kitchen is ready!

The kitchen is probably one of the busiest rooms in your home. Here are some great tips to help keep your kitchen running as a safe, clean, and more useful space.


A Safe Kitchen


Keeping your family safe in the kitchen is a top priority. Here are some important rules to make the room a safer place:

1. When returning from the grocery store, make sure all refrigerated and frozen food is in your refrigerator/freezer less than two hours from the time it was placed in your cart. If it’s hot outside, you will only have one hour.

2. Remove colorful kitchen magnets from your fridge if you have children in the home. The bright colors are enticing to children and present a choking hazard.

3. Remove any dangling jewelry before cooking.

4. Place a damp rag or towel on the counter under your cutting board to keep the cutting board from slipping while cutting.

5. If you have children at home, use the back burners on the stove as much as possible to keep cooking food out of their reach. Never leave cooking food unattended on the stovetop.

6. If a grease fire breaks out in your kitchen, immediately cover the fire with salt or baking soda. Cover the fire with a pan or pot lid if possible. Never use water on a grease fire.

7. Never use a wet or damp cloth, towel, or hot pad when touching anything hot. Always use dry hot pads or oven mitts to avoid getting burned.

A Clean Kitchen


When it comes to cleaning the kitchen, the best solutions are those that are quick and easy to use and focus on using items you most likely already have in your kitchen. Here are some tips to help with common kitchen messes:

Tile - if you have tile anywhere in your kitchen (tile flooring, tile countertops, tile backsplash, etc.) you should try this homemade cleaner:

Kitchen Tile Cleaner
2 gallons of warm water
½ cup of baking soda

1. Mix the baking soda with the water in a bucket. Apply to tile with a sponge and scrub until clean. 2. Gently wipe with a damp cloth to polish.

Microwave - keeping the microwave clean can be a pain. Try this simple cleaning solution that uses natural ingredients:

Microwave Cleaner
1 lemon, lime, or orange, cut into small pieces
1 cup water
8 tablespoons of vinegar

1. Place the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and cook in the microwave on high for five minutes. Do not open the door for 15 more minutes. After 15 minutes, wipe out the inside with a damp rag or paper towel.

Disposal - while your disposal does help to keep your kitchen clean, at times the odors coming from the disposal can make your kitchen smell anything but clean. Try this simple cleaning tip:

Disposal Cleaner
3 tablespoons of baking soda
2 ice cubes

1. Drop the baking soda and ice cubes down into the disposal. Turn the disposal on. Run hot water while the disposal is running.

Toaster - since your bread products are often near your toaster, at some point some plastic packaging may melt and stick to your toaster. Here’s how you can get it off:

Melted Plastic on Toaster Fix
Unplug your toaster. Wait for the toaster to cool completely. Grab a bottle of nail polish remover. Rub the remover on the melted plastic until the area is clean again.

Stainless Steel Appliances - stainless steel finishes are common in the modern kitchen. Unfortunately, the surface often looks spotty or is covered in fingerprint smudges. Here’s a trick to help:

Stainless Steel Appliance Polish Tip
Pour a small amount of olive oil on a soft rag. Buff the surface of the stainless steel appliance until the surface shines.

A Useful Kitchen


In addition to having a safe and clean kitchen, you also want to make your kitchen as easy to use on a daily basis as possible. Check out these smart tips:

If you have more condiments than fit on your refrigerator door, consider placing a lazy susan turntable on one of the shelves to store the remaining condiments with easy access.

When you open any container that will be stored in the fridge, write the date on the container with a black marker. This will make it super easy for you to know when to toss the container.

Purchase coffee filters and use them to cover food heated in the microwave.

Never pour grease down the drain. For more helpful tips on dealing with your kitchen drains and plumbing concerns, check out this advice from the experts.

Keep a notepad on your fridge, or easily accessible nearby to make grocery shopping lists as you go.

Use kitchen scissors to cut herbs, green onions, cooked bacon, and even meat. Just make sure you clean the scissors thoroughly after use.

Always read a recipe start to finish before you start making anything. This way you won’t find any surprises at the end that may leave you in a lurch.

Follow these tips and common sense to make your kitchen a safer, cleaner, and more useful space.
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11/17/14

4 weeks, and the results are...


It's been 4 weeks.  And what are my results?  I've lost 10.5 pounds!  I'm so excited about that.  I've only had the opportunity to work out a handful of times during these 4 weeks (which I need to be MUCH better about).  It's mostly been about my diet.  I had set a goal for myself to lose 2 pounds a week.  I'm averaging 2.6!  What is the diet?  Slim Fast and Special K breakfast protein shakes.  I'm careful to track all my calories, especially for dinner.  And I have had splurge days.  But overall, I have to say I am loving the LoseIt!® app.  It has made tracking my calories so stinking simple.  Both for food and for exercise.


So I'm starting the next 4 weeks today, at 216.5 pounds.  Still a ways to go, but I am seeing results.  And that is all that matters to me!

I'm a little worried about the next two weeks.  Thanksgiving.  Sigh.  I so love the food traditions that we have as a family for that holiday.  I think I may need to hit the rower a few times before next Thursday.

So how am I feeling?  I am feeling good.  I had to go down a size in my pants.  I am loving how easy it is.  BUT, I miss eating.  I do not like being hangry most of the day.  That part is no fun.  I miss chewing all my meals.  While the shakes are simple and fast, I do miss chewing.  I don't know how long this will last, but I'll take it while it's working.  Because for the first time, I'm continuing to lose a consistent amount of weight each week.  And that's a good thing.
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11/2/14

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches





Over the summer, I had a hankering for Buffalo Wings.  But I didn't want to make the full wing.  I didn't want to fire up the fryer or the oven.  But I wanted the flavor.  That spicy, tangy, crispy, drooling........oh, sorry.  I love buffalo wings.  Especially on game days.  The only thing I don't like about them is getting the buffalo sauce on my fingers and having it burn my skin.  So I usually opt for the boneless wings.  No fryer, no oven, boneless chicken.  This called for a slow cooker recipe!



So this is what I came up with.  A slow cooker version that you can pile high with tender chicken, saucy and spicy. I also wanted my carrots and blue cheese with it.  So I made a carrot slaw, tossed on some red cabbage, and topped it with chunky blue cheese dressing.  The result was so delicious, and tasted just like having wings at a restaurant.  Seriously one of my new favorite sandwiches.  One tip - get a good, crispy roll.  Not a soft bun like a hamburger bun.  We're talking bakery roll.  The soft buns will soak up the sauce too much and fall apart in your hands.  Okay, I think I need to make these again this week.




Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches


Ingredients:


3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
1 bottle Frank's® Red Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce
1 bottle Lighthouse® Chunky Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
Shredded Cabbage
Sandwich rolls

Carrot Slaw:

3 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. vinegar
Salt and Pepper

Directions:

1. Place chicken breasts and broth in slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

2. Prepare carrot slaw.  Combine carrot shreds with olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Toss to coat.  Set aside.

3. Remove chicken from slow cooker.  Discard liquid.  Shred chicken with 2 forks and place in a large bowl.  Add 1/2 bottle or 1 cup of wing sauce to chicken and toss to coat.

4. Pour 1 Tbs. of blue cheese dressing onto bottom half of sandwich roll.  Top with buffalo chicken. Add shredded cabbage and carrot slaw.  Pour another 1 Tbs. of dressing on top of carrot slaw, adding more buffalo sauce if desired.  Top with remaining sandwich roll half.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6
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10/28/14

LOSS!

Okay, here's an update for you.  I am very excited to say that I'm down to 222!  I wasn't sure this whole meal replacement shake thing was going to work.  In fact, I have to be honest - I almost ALMOST threw in the towel this week.  The shakes get old.  Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla.  Yeah.  It gets blah.  And honestly, I really start to miss chewing.

That being said, I cannot tell you how excited I am.  I am right on track (in fact, I'm a pound ahead!) to meet my goal.  This week's "weigh in" really got me excited.  It gave me an extra boost that I needed.  This past week has been full of a lot of what Tina Fey calls Hanger.  Yup, that anger that arises from being hungry.  I've never really experienced it.  Until bringing my caloric intake down to  below 1500 a day.  Youch. BUT!  If I keep this up through the holidays, I could actually be in the hundos right around New Years!

Last week and this week my exercise consists of only rowing 3 days a week.  Next week, I'll keep up the every other day rowing, but I plan on adding some core strength training with the AbMat and some wall push ups (plus whatever the Hubs decides to throw at me - insert terrified face here).  I'm really digging the LoseIt app and how simple it is to log all my calories plus my exercise to be able to get a really fast glimpse at my day and my progress.

So, this week, I'm still on the wagon.  Hoping to hang in there during the most wonderful time of the year and all the sugary goodness that comes with it.  Hm, I'm seeing more rowing in my future to earn more calories.  #fat2fitcat
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10/23/14

Lemon and Pesto Chicken Parmesan






Is this really a recipe?  You betcha!  This recipe gave me a little inspiration and motivation to get it up on the blog.  And I think you'll like it!  With the lemon zest in the chicken and the basil pesto sauce, it is such a light, refreshing switch up for regular Chicken Parm with marinara sauce.  But it still tastes like a traditional Italian dish with the oregano and basil.  My kids loved the fried aspect of it.  Using panko crumbs made it nice and crunchy while the asiago cheese in the mix totally just blew the flavor out of the water.








It might seem unnecessary to half the chicken breasts, but it's so important.  Not only will it ensure that it cooks evenly, but your portion will be perfect.  I don't know about you, but a full chicken breast is almost overwhelming when having it with anything else.  (Usually I end up cutting part of it off for one of the kiddos.)  And because I've started counting calories religiously, I've thrown the calories down at the end of the recipe for you.  And yes, it includes the pasta and pesto!





Lemon and Pesto Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients:



2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
1/2 Tbs. dried oregano
1/2 Tbs. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
8 oz. (1/2 package) angel hair pasta
1 cup basil pesto sauce

Directions:

1. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken breasts in half, horizontally, and pound with a meat mallet until even thickness.  Set aside.

2. Combine egg and flour in a bowl and whisk with a fork until flour is incorporated.  In a shallow bowl, combine panko crumbs, asiago cheese, oregano, basil, garlic powder, black pepper, and lemon zest.  Toss with a fork to mix well.  Combine mozzarella and parmesan cheeses in a separate bowl and set aside.

3. Preheat olive oil in a large skillet.  Dip chicken into egg mixture, coating well, and allow excess to drip off.  Place in panko mixture, using hands to thoroughly coat chicken.  Place into hot skillet and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, turning only once, or until cooked through.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese mixture evenly on all 4 pieces of chicken.  Place a lid on the skillet and remove from heat.  Keep lid on until cheese has melted.

4. While chicken is cooking, prepare pasta by bringing a large saucepan of water to a boil, and cooking for 4 minutes for al dente.  Serve with chicken and pesto sauce.

Serves 4
789 Calories per serving
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