A Knack for Hacks

By: Chaunte McClure

Lately I haven’t been able to sleep through the night, so unfortunately I grab my phone and start exploring my apps. (Wait; is there an app for that? “That” being insomnia.) Anyway, Pinterest is one of the apps I’ve scrolled through in the wee hours of the morning until sleep decides to show up again. I never get bored, I just get tired of scrolling because there’s so much to discover on Pinterest! Almost T-M-I!

I’ve come across several pins recently about various interesting hacks – cleaning hacks, life hacks, car hacks, decorating hacks, and DIY hacks. What exactly are they? Tips, tricks or shortcuts. We all have some that we use day to day and I thought I’d share a few of mine. Some of them you’ve probably done before or you know someone who has.

  1. Pinterest hacksStop that run in your pantyhose with clear fingernail polish. (Grandma probably taught me this one.)
  2. If your shoes are a little big, put some tissue in the toe of your shoe. (Come on now, you know you’ve done this at some point in your life. I buy insoles nowadays.)
  3. Oh yeah, and when you get a scratch on those black shoes, cover it using a black sharpie. (LOL. Yes, I’ve done it.)
  4. Put the lids on your pots and bowls to help keep your cabinets neatly organized. (I’m slightly OCD.)
  5. Don’t throw that vinyl shower curtain away! Put it in the washing machine with a load of laundry. Hang to dry.
  6. Next time you spill a drink on the carpet, don’t attempt to wipe it. Shake baking soda over the area. It’ll absorb the liquid.

Do you have a knack for hacks? I’m sure you have some great hacks of your own. Please take a moment to share at least one. I’m looking forward to reading them!

Salted Caramel Nirvana

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I’m not much of a sweet freak.  But, my husband is and that gene has obviously been passed on to our daughter.  Don’t get me wrong…I can appreciate a good dessert, a good cake or a good cookie when I see one, I just don’t crave that kind of stuff.

However…

Since I became addicted to Pinterest, I came across a recipe whose photo grabbed me and hasn’t let go.  It’s for “Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars.”  When I do indulge in sweets, there are certain types that really appeal to me: chocolate, hazelnut and any combination of salt and sweet.  I’ve had this recipe on one of my Pinterest boards for a couple months, but haven’t done anything about it.

Today was my sweet baby’s 1st day of 1st grade.  I decided that I’d make a special dessert for her.  As I pondered all the great recipes in my head and in all my books, etc., the salted caramel cheesecake came to mind.  All I needed was graham crackers and cream, so I ran out for these provisions and got busy.  This recipe is not hard to put together.  In fact, it’s quite easy.  But, the result will wow the socks off your family and friends, and they will think you worked forever on these delicious bars.

Cut into bars, sprinkle with salt and dive in!

The website where the recipe is located here.  It is a fantastically rich, gooey, delicious dessert that is out of the norm and special.  Whatever you do, don’t skip the salt!  That is what really sets this dish apart!  I didn’t have any fleur de sel, so I used some smoked sea salt and it was awesome.  Give it a shot.  I bet you’ll be happy you did.  Everyone at my house was happy about it!  I got a two-thumbs up from the little one, I mean the big 1st grader, so I know it was a success.

Latest Obsession: Photo-A-Day

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary Pat Baldauf

This month, I started playing a cool “game” with my iPhone: Photo-A-Day.

It works like this. Each month, you get a list of daily prompts. All you have to do is use any camera you have — iPhone, Smartphone, Digital, — and use the daily prompt as inspiration. You then share the photo using your favorite social media platforms, i.e. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr.

You can Google “picture a day challenge” and find any number of challenges. I’m doing FatMumSlim’s Photo-a-Day Challenge because 1) it’s the one that a lot of my friends are using, and 2) I like her style. (Click here for a great article about FatMumSlim blogger Chantelle Elam and her Photo-A-Day challenge.)

FatMumSlim gives five ways photo-a-day will change your life for the better, but here’s why I’m doing it:

It Expands My Horizons.  Seeing Photo-A-Day shots from friends gives me insight into who they are, what they are doing and how they see the world. It also exposes me to things I might not otherwise see or know about, such as a beautiful flower or a new camera app.

It’s a Great Way to Document My Life, Day by Day.  I blog, but my blog isn’t really a journal in the true sense of the word.  And who has time to scrapbook anymore?  I have a nice camera, but I usually just use my iPhone to capture every day moments.  I post a lot of them to Instagram anyway, so it’s a no-brainer.  Once I post my “Photo-A-Day” picture, I also save it in a monthly “Photo-a-Day” folder I’ve created on my iPhone.  I think it will be neat to go back at the end of a month, even the end of the year, and see my month in photos.

It’s Plain Out Fun.  I love the challenge of illustrating the daily prompt. It helps me think outside of the box and gives me an opportunity to express myself.  It also forces me to slow down from the daily grind and take time to think about something besides work and my daily to-do list.

Sound interesting? Visit FatMumSlim and get started today. You can get some practice with the remaining days in July and start your first full month in August. Let me know how you like it!  Already do a monthly photo challenge?  Please share your experiences!

Refreshing Summer Drinks Courtesy of Pinterest

By: Staci Rutherford

My mission over the last two weeks has been to figure out ways to stay cool and comfortable now that summer has arrived.  With record high temperatures across the country, I am constantly craving frozen beverages to avoid melting in the heat.  Eating ice cream everyday would probably do the trick, but will also ruin my cute, girlish figure.  So, I decided to go to my trusted source, Pinterest, for more ideas.  I created a board dedicated to delicious drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, which will definitely keep you calm and cool during the heat wave.

Here are a few recipes that immediately caught my eye that I cannot wait to try!

Pink Lemonade Sherbert Party Punch (serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can frozen pink lemonade from concentrate
  • 2-1/2 cans water
  • 1 carton Raspberry sherbet
  • 2 liter Sprite
  • 3 lemons

Directions:

  1. In a pitcher, combine the pink lemonade concentrate and the cans of water.
  2. Freeze for about 4 hours until slushy.
  3. In the pitcher, add the lemons and a thick layer of raspberry sherbet.
  4. Pour the Sprite over the top of sherbet and stir just a bit so it gets nice and frothy on top.
  5. Serve immediately.

Source: Food Family Finds

Watermelon Margarita Frosty (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
  • 1/2+ cup water
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 large lemon, squeezed (lime juice also works very well! use 2 limes)
  • 1 fresh banana
  • Optional: 2 shots of tequila (or substitute with more water or fruit juice)
  • Garnish: a few slices of watermelon – with rind on – frozen.

Directions: 

  1. Blend ingredients.
  2. Pour.
  3. Garnish with frozen watermelon/rind slices.
  4. Serve! Enjoy.

Source: Healthy. Happy. Life.

Champagne Cocktail with Mint & Lemon Sherbet (serves 1)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp fresh mint leaves, muddled or finely chopped
  • 2 large scoops lemon sorbet
  • 1/3 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup champagne or sparkling wine

Directions:

  1. In a tall glass, place a pinch of mint.
  2. Add one scoop lemon sorbet, another pinch mint and the other scoop sorbet.
  3. Pour in vodka, then top with champagne and the rest of the mint.
  4. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Source: fresh365

Riesling Strawberry Slushy (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 1 bottle (750ml) dry Riesling
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Directions:

  1. Reserve 1 cup of the Riesling – cover and place in the fridge to chill.
  2. In a food processor, puree strawberries with the remaining wine, lime juice and sugar.
  3. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze until solid.
  4. When you’re ready to serve [or drink], puree the ice cubes with the remaining wine in your blender.

Source: With Style & Grace

In A Cooking Rut? Can I Interest You In Pinterest?

By:  Elizabeth Webber Akre

As much as I love to cook, even I get in a rut from time to time.  Most recently, I was so bored and burned out on chicken, I actually put out a call for help and inspiration on my blog, www.AkreEats.blogspot.com.  I got some suggestions, but it still took about 2 weeks before I could even get interested in chicken again.

In the midst of this bird boredom, I finally jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon.  At first, I was just interested in checking it out so I’d know what everyone was talking about, but then I started paying attention.  What I learned was, “Wow!  This is really pretty cool!”  Quickly, I discovered how many other cook-a-holics are out there and they were sharing all kinds of awesome recipes, techniques and smart hints that I didn’t know.  (For instance, I now know how and am in the process of growing my own scallions.  As God as my witness, I’ll never pay for or run out of green onions again!”)  But, oh bliss, all the creative and innovative recipes I’ve found.  My enthusiasm for cooking returned with giddy excitement.  One of the first recipes that caught my eye is simply titled “Sour cream & bacon crockpot chicken.”

First, I love my crockpot.  Second, I love bacon.  And third, I love sour cream.  How could I possibly pass this one up?  I made it last week and I was in love.  The chicken was fall-apart tender; in fact, next time I may cook it a little less time just for the sake of presentation (the breasts will hold their shape better coming from the crockpot to plate.) The bacon was crisp and added nice flavor to the delightful sour cream sauce.  It was kind of stroganoff-like with a little spike of smoky bacon.  In fact, next time, I’m going to use two slices of bacon per breast just to add more bacon flavor.  After all, I’m a bacon devotee.

One of the main reasons I love to cook so much is to impress and satisfy my family and friends.  My husband is a great person to cook for because he’s so appreciative but he will tell me if I miss the mark.  This dish got his “thumbs up.”  Now, any of you with kids know that they can surprise you and eat exactly what you don’t expect them to and then shun the ol’ kid stand-bys.  This dish not only got my daughter’s “thumbs up,” but she elaborated … “I really like this mommy.  You should make this a lot.  I love it.”  WOW.  That is the sign of a winning dish, if you ask me!

This recipe came from a “pin” from a blog entitled “Moms with Crockpots.”  Sometimes when I read other people’s blogs, I wish I could jump on a plane and go meet him/her in person.  Of course, that’s not realistic, so I read, I comment and let them know how much I appreciate them sharing what they know.  My hat’s off to the creator of this recipe.  I most definitely will be making this dish again and I hope you’ll try it too.  Click here to see the full recipe from “Moms with Crockpots.”

For more, visit me at Gastronomy by a Wanna-be Chef.

This Week’s Meals Brought to You by … Pinterest?

By:  Crissie Miller Kirby

Okay, if you read my first blog of the New Year, you know that I want to become more organized this year.  And I want to be more organized in every sense of the word.  Mealtimes, included.  Let me say, I enjoy cooking, but struggle with finding meals that will accommodate the picky palates of my 3 and 6-year-old.  I also want something that does not always consist of French fries, chicken nuggets, or hamburgers.  I have a whole shelf in my kitchen cabinets devoted to cook books, and, surprisingly, they are all together and well organized.  But, honestly, I just don’t have the time to comb through the array of Southern Living yearbooks, or 15 different church cookbooks, or even the clever Crock-Pot recipe books, looking for something to eat.  I also don’t want to spend hours scouring my local Bi-Lo or Wal-Mart grocery section for some random ingredient I will use only once in my lifetime.

Enter Pinterest.  Yes, I said Pinterest.

Years ago, I made an attempt, feeble as it was, to take recipes and put them in a three ring binder.  Epic fail.  Although I’m sure I still have the binder somewhere with the plethora of cut out and ripped out recipes from various magazines and coupon sections, it fell by the wayside.  Good idea, but I guess I got too busy or too overwhelmed or what have you.  Who knows?  Sorry, back to Pinterest.  I got “invited” to join several weeks ago and have begun searching for recipes ever since.  After I had about 7 or 8 dinner meal ideas, I decided I would plan our evening meals solely from recipes gleaned from Pinterest and see how it worked.  The first thing that excited me about this new online tool was that it allows me to have a virtual notebook of sorts for different recipes.  Here was an online version of what I had tried to do years ago.  YAY!

When I chose the recipes I wanted to try, I simply went to the respective sites, copied the ingredient lists into a word document, and printed it out.  I then did a quick look-see in my kitchen cabinets to see if I had any of the ingredients already and crossed those off my list.  List in hand, I headed to the grocery store.  I won’t detail what it cost me, but I have to say that I did have a $13 bag of cat food and a few other items that were un-recipe related (you know, essentials, like hair spray!)

That night I placed 6 chicken breasts in the crock pot to cook overnight to be used for different recipes.  The smell the next morning was great!  I took out some of the chicken, leaving the rest for the first day’s meal – Crockpot chicken and rice.  All said and done, it was pretty good and even my boys ate it, which is always a huge plus.  Over the course of the week, I prepared a Crockpot hobo stew, ham and cheese crescent rolls (my boys’ favorite), peanut butter pretzel candy, and my personal favorite, poppy seed chicken.

All in all, it was a great experiment.  I learned a few tough lessons that week – most importantly, for one adult and 2 children, all of these recipes made WAY too much food, so, unfortunately, there was more waste than I had desired.  I also learned that I loved cooking every night for myself and my boys – I think we had all grown tired of fast food and even home cooked staple meals; we needed to shake things up a little.  I have allowed life to get in the way the last week or so and have not repeated the experiment again, but plan on doing it again soon.

Have you discovered Pinterest?  I’d love to hear how others are using Pinterest to make even a small difference in your life.