Friday, December 19, 2014

Taking the Planes Characters on the road this Holiday Season

 This holiday travel shop with Disney Planes the Movie has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions and experiences are mine alone. #PlanesToTheRescue #CollectiveBias

We usually don't travel around the holidays. In fact, the longest holiday drive we take is about 15 minutes. We live surrounded by multiple generations of family, so keeping my kids occupied in the car is usually not an issue. This year though we have a little surprise in store for the kids.

We will be packing up the family to go on a special North Pole bound train ride and I know the kids are going to have a blast. My only concern is to get to the station is an over 3 hour drive.. and I have 3 small children to keep entertained for the entire way there.

I like to be prepared, so while picking up some car ride essentials at Walmart, I took a peek down the toy aisle. 

The die-cast 3-pack, Secret Hangar Meeting, is currently on Rollback at Walmart, along with several other great last minute gift ideas, or "car ride boredom busters". My children are huge fans of Disney Planes and Planes Fire and Rescue, so I knew this would be a big hit.

I have fond memories of driving my own die cast cars around the back seat of my parent's mustard yellow Matador during family road trips.

The cute Disney characters inspired me to also create a No Sew Felt Board or Flannel Board for my daughter who loves to create her own. Dusty and his friends from Planes would be my inspiration.

To get started, you will need:

  • Foam Core Board
  • X-Acto Knife
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Felt, in various colors
  • a collection of ribbon, washi tape or lace 
  • Felt Glue
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Freezer Paper
  • Pencil
  • Assorted Permanent Markers
I started by cutting foam core board. I wanted my felt board to be like a book, small enough to fit in my daughter's lap in the car, but big enough to tell an entire story. In the end I cut my cover pieces to be just larger than a 9" x 12" sheet of felt. I allowed for a 1/2" around the edges so cut them to be 10" x 13".

Then with glue, I started putting down my felt for the storyboard. I went with a solid blue sheet on one side for the sky. 

Now is when a stash of ribbon, lace and washi tape comes in handy. I glued red striped ribbon over the page edge and then "finished" the edges of the felt with strips of my choice. I went with a typeset alphabet and metallic ruler tape for this part.

On the other side of my felt board I created a sky and mountain backdrop. I wanted the felt back for this project to be smooth, so I inset the mountain then glued it all down. This will be perfect for staging the woodland fires for my daughter's stories.

I made a simple "binding" for my foam core book with extra wide ribbon. This part I attached with hot glue for added durability.

Then I finished the outer edges with a little bit of lace.

On the outside of the Felt Board I used adhesive washi sheets for quick covers.

Then it was time to start on the removable felt pieces for storytelling. 

One of the easiest ways to cut felt for an intricate project like this is to use Freezer Paper. I found these cute flames online. I printed them out and taped them into a window for easy tracing. Then I covered them with a sheet of Freezer Paper (wax side down) and traced.

Then on a low setting, I ironed the wax side down onto a piece of red felt. It doesn't take long for the paper to stick and the stencils are reusable with a little more heat.

Using Freezer Paper makes it really easy to cut out simple shapes and designs. I tried cutting these little flames freehand, but this is much better.

To complete my little Fire and Rescue scene, I cut out more flames, trees, clouds, a smoke jumper and parachute, Dusty and another generic plane.

The best part about a project like this is we can keep adding felt characters and pieces to our collection and my daughter can use it over and over on our car trips as well as at home. I would point out that this is a nice and quiet car activity, but we all know the kids will be supplying the sound effects, right?

And it is so much fun to have more adventures with Disney Planes Dusty and all his friends.

So if there are young children and car trips in your future this Holiday Season, or maybe just are looking for a last minute gift idea, think of creating your own personalized Felt Board with a Disney Planes theme, or stop by and stock up on these great Planes toys currently on Rollback - Disney Planes Flight to the Finish Speedway Rollback to $24.97, Disney Planes Fire & Rescue Die-Cast Vehicles, 3-Pack Rollback to $14.97, or Disney Planes Fire & Rescue Deluxe Talking Vehicle Assortment Rollback to $19.97.

Either way, you will be a big hit this season with the kids.

Do you have any long car trips over the Holiday Season? How do keep everyone entertained?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cake - #BundtBakers

I have a great respect for the under-appreciated bundt cake. Sadly, I have never seen a bundt cake proudly displayed in a bakery window, or have seen a bundt featured on a dessert menu. But, it holds a special place in my heart for all the moist and creative flavor combinations that can be made in a bundt pan.

I own quite a few myself, but still have several bundt designs that I would love to add to my collection. My husband just rolls his eyes. But that man wouldn't dare turn down a slice of bundt cake!

Since I haven't even begun to exhaust all the fun bundt recipes out there, I went in search of a baking group that might share my passion.


#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on the BundtBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to

This month's host was Laura from The Spiced Life. A big thank you to her for coordinating all of us.  She challenged us to use mint in any shape, way or form to create something magical this month. I chose to create a Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cake. ...and let me tell you, this recipe is a keeper!

With the hectic schedule this month, I thought chocolate was in order. I recently ordered some various dark cocoas from King Arthur Flour and was excited to see how it baked. I also happen to be a peppermint fan, so choosing a way to incorporate mint was no problem.

I am almost embarrassed to say that this is the first time I have used my sifter. Usually I just use my whisk or break out the fine mesh sieve, but today I felt like being a little more careful. No sense ruining a perfectly good chocolate cake with lumps, right?

What I realized is that I don't have a lot of patience in the kitchen. Between photos, lighting, little kids and trying to make this cake, it took me way longer than anticipated. Luckily the cake was worth the wait.

Now, if you are intrigued by what the BundtBakers have been up to this month, check out the end of the post for a complete list of all the amazing cakes.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cake

You Will Need:
  • 2 oz. dark chocolate, melting wafers roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 1/4 c. scalded heavy cream
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. espresso powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cake enhancer
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
Preheat to 350 degrees. Prepare the 10-cup bundt pan with butter and cocoa.

Heat the water and heavy cream. Pour over the chocolate and stir till it is all melted. Set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. In a stand mixer beat together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and oil. Add half the dry ingredients to the mixer, scrape down the sides before adding the remaining dry ingredients. Beat on low for another 3 minutes, then pour into the prepared bundt pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool before inverting and plating.

Top with a peppermint ganache.

You Will Need:

  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 5 oz. of dark chocolate melting wafers, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
Bring the heavy cream and corn syrup up to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and stir to melt. Stir in the peppermint extract and let the ganache start to set up. Pour over a cooled bundt cake and sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint candy.


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Bring the Romance Home - Filet Mignon Dinner with Balsamic Reduction

 This romantic dinner for 2 idea and recipes have been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions and experiences in this shop are mine alone. #TheMoodStrikes #CollectiveBias

It seems like a distant memory, but I can still remember coming home from work and making dinner with my husband. Just the two of us in a tiny apartment. We took our time, we made fresh pasta, we made pineapple upside down cake in the cast iron skillet... and then decided the rest of dinner wasn't necessary. It was a great time to talk, connect and feel closer to each other.

You could say that romance was in the air.

But that was 10 years ago. Now, the freedom to be spontaneous has been replaced with children, macaroni and cheese, picky eaters and at least one time during the meal or meal prep, crying. Not me, well, usually not me... but usually the baby or one of the kids bursts out crying because the world, as they know it, has ended (or they don't agree with my dinner selection).

And at that point you can usually cue burning food or the smoke detector going off.

Well, since my youngest was born I can count on one hand (and all of 2 fingers!) how often we have had a chance for a romantic meal without the kids.

So given the chance for a little alone time, I wanted to create a special dinner with my husband in mind. He likes red meat. I like veggies. This romantic meal made us both happy without leaving us feeling over stuffed.

I like to pan sear my fillet mignon in a cast iron skillet with a little rosemary, salt and pepper. These also happened to be bacon wrapped.

I made this meal extra special with a balsamic vinegar reduction. It sounds all fancy and goes well with both the meat and roasted veggies.

Balsamic vinegar becomes really thick and sweet when you let it simmer. And yeah, it really is that simple. Let it reduce in a small saucepan till it has reduced by half and will coat the back of a spoon.

Veggies I tossed in olive oil and sea salt, then oven roasted for a short amount of time in a hot oven. Served over a bed of cheesy polenta, this was a great way to catch up on each other and reconnect with each other. You could even say that this simple dinner left plenty of time for us to get in the mood for romance.

Seared Filet Mignon with Balsamic Reduction

You Will Need:
  • 16 oz. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. butter, unsalted

In a small saucepan pour 2 cups of Balsamic Vinegar. Over low heat, bring it to a low simmer and let it reduce to about half. It should easily coat the back of a spoon when it is thick enough. Turn on low till you are ready to serve dinner.

Take the meat out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking. Salt and pepper both sides of the steaks. 

 In a cast iron skillet, let the pan begin to warm then add the butter and steaks at medium high heat. It should be just below smoking. High, fast heat will result in a delicious steak! Let the steak sear on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. Baste with bacon drippings and butter from the pan. Turn the steak and cook for another 3 minutes or until meat is cooked as desired.

Drizzle the meat with Balsamic Reduction for serving.

Oven roasted Vegetables

You Will Need:
  • Bell Peppers, sliced in various colors
  • Asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • Green Onions, ends trimmed
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Keeping the vegetables separate, toss in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place on a baking sheet keeping like-sized vegetables together. 

Start to check and turn vegetables at 9 minutes. Keep an eye on them as each will vary in cooking time depending on size. Let them sear but not burn. 

Drizzle with Balsamic Reduction if desired.

The only thing better than a special romantic dinner is perhaps the perfect dessert. I went with a classic, a simple chocolate souffle for two.

But perhaps even better than the perfect dinner and dessert would be the ability to reconnect when the mood strikes. At my age that is sometimes easier said than done.

The busy holiday season is a great time to connect and spend time with your loved one. I try not to let my relationship get lost in the holiday shuffle.

I found this product in the Feminine Needs section at my local Walmart and be sure to grab this coupon for $1 off any KY product.

 I love that KY Liquibeads allow me the freedom to take advantage of these romantic evenings alone together. You know, they may be far and few between, so I don't want to miss an opportunity!

KY is a personal lubricant brand I have used for years, but now I can prepare for what may come after my romantic dinner, even before I start prepping my vegetables. This product only needs to be used once every few days so even I can be spontaneous.

This is a KY Liquibeads Ovule. The package came with 6 individually packaged Ovule inserts and 6 disposable applicators.

The Liquibeads Ovule fits into the end of the applicator and can be inserted by pressing on the plunger. Using the KY Liquibeads is fast, easy and mess free. Then I can get back to prepping for my dinner and hoping for a wonderful evening.

*women who are pregnant or nursing, should first consult a doctor before using KY Liquibeads.

What would your perfect romantic meal for 2 include?

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Cookies - Secret Recipe Club Cookie Carnival

With the holidays coming up next week the Secret Recipe Club decided to offer a fun little "extra" out of the usual recipe posting rotation. This week I am sharing a cookie recipe from a fellow SRC club member and am happy to say there are over 60 bloggers participating with chosen cookie recipes.

The rest of the year I am not a big cookie baker. From time to time I make one of our family favorites, Triangle Delights or Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies, but in general I don't collect or search for new cookie recipes.

One reason is my oldest two kids have some pretty crazy food restrictions due to PKU. I always feel badly making cookies they can't eat, so trying out a new cookie recipe means I make a PKU approved cookie for them.

Browsing through my given blog, Cookaholic Wife, I found that Nichole had the perfect solution to my cookie dilemma! Her Cinnamon Roll Cookies call for a package of sugar cookie mix. Now, this means, whether you have dietary restrictions, or not, you can work with this recipe and create some tasty Cinnamon Roll Cookies! Woo-hoo.

Now, to be fair to Nichole, there are many great recipes on her blog I would love to make like her California Roll Burgers (don't those sound fun?),  or her Bang Bang Cauliflower, but I was restricted to cookie recipes only this time.

My kids would like to send a big "thank you!" to Nichole for sharing this one.

It was also a great way to get my kids in the kitchen one evening when my husband was away for work. Keeping all three kids occupied can be a challenge, but offer them the chance to create cookies for a post, and they are all in.

After making my sugar cookie dough, as directed on the package, I rolled out my cookie dough into a rectangle brushed it with softened butter.

Then my kids took turns shaking the cookie dough with cinnamon and sugar. We keep a shaker full in the cabinet because my husband is a huge fan of cinnamon toast.

Then ever so carefully, we rolled up the dough just like a cinnamon roll. I put down waxed paper to make this step easy and relatively mess-free for the kids to do themselves.

Pinch the top and slice into 1/2" pieces. Put them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. I let mine cool completely on the cookie sheet since my dough is extra fragile.

When you are ready to serve, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk, it should be thick. Put it in a zip topped bag and snip a tiny bit off one end. Drizzle the glaze over each cookie to decorate. Let the glaze set up before serving or storing.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
from Cookaholic Wife, adapted from The Country Cook.

You Will Need:
  • 1 package sugar cookie mix + ingredients required on the back of the package
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
Prepare the sugar cookie mix as directed. Roll out the dough on a piece of wax paper into a rectangle. 

Spread the softened butter over the dough. In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and sugar and then sprinkle evenly over the dough. Roll up like a cinnamon roll, wrap in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the log into 1/2" slices with a sharp knife. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until the cookies have started to turn golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the sheet before transferring to a plate or wire rack.

Once the cookies have cooled, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk. It should be thick, but still pourable. Place in a zip-topped bag and snip the corner of one end. Drizzle the glaze over each cookie, then allow to set for a minute or two before serving. 


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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cheesy Chive Biscuits - with Coconut Flour

 I received an assortment of products from Nutiva to create these Cheesy Chive Biscuits with coconut flour and to facilitate this review.  A positive review was not required and all opinions and experiences are my own. 

I can't believe it is the final week for Holiday Dinner posts and giveaways! So far, there have been some amazing recipes shared and I have been busy pinning my fellow bloggers' menus. So many great and tasty ideas! This week is no exception, and keep reading to see the recipe and giveaway for Nutiva products. Check out this line-up from my fellow foodie bloggers:

Busy-at-Home : Homemade Crescent Rolls

Will Cook for Smiles: Coconut Oil Carrot Bread

Adventures in All Things Food: Cheesy Chive Biscuits with Coconut Flour

The Gunny Sack: Pumpkin Gingerbread

Daily Dish Recipes: Cranberry Orange Mini Loaves

Flour on My Face: Coconut Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

This week we were able to focus on some alternative baking products from Nutiva. Though Coconut Oil and Chia Seeds are no strangers to my pantry, I don't often have a chance to work with coconut flour or coconut shortening, but due to my kids' dietary needs I have worked with other alternative flour and baking ingredients.

I was really excited to go through Nutiva's product list. I am already a huge fan of coconut oil and have several favorite recipes using it. My favorite granola recipe uses coconut oil, and I have used coconut oil as the base various lip glosses, scrubs and masks.

This was the first chance that I had to try refined coconut oil. It has a more neutral flavor, less obvious coconut after taste. For most bath and beauty products I use the regular coconut oil. I love the hint of coconut there. But for baking something savory, I went with the refined.

It is solid at room temperature, so using as an oil or butter substitute you will need to gently warm the oil.

I was thrilled with the Nutiva coconut oils and I can't wait to have more chances to cook, bake, and pamper myself with them.

I was also very interested in trying coconut flour. I work with a lot of wheat starch for my children's diets and found this to have similar properties. It takes a little while for moisture to be absorbed into coconut flour. It thickens as it sits.

Nutiva is a company interested in nourishing people as well as the planet. They found superfoods that are not only nutrient dense, but also can be processed in a sustainable manner. They found things like coconut, chia, hemp and red palm to bring to customers in one place. The business strives to be socially and environmentally responsible and sources organic products and is constantly looking for new ways to give back to their employees, customers and employees.

With a holiday meal I enjoy having either a biscuit or roll on the side. There is something so traditional and comforting about smelling them bake and then being able to pair with excess gravy or cranberry sauce.

I love the combo of chives and cheddar, so I went with these Cheesy Chive Biscuits that use both refined coconut oil as well as coconut flour.

I think biscuits are brilliant because they are so easy!  Just gather all the ingredients together,.. the eggs, coconut flour, chives, onion powder, baking powder, etc., whisk or sift.

Then stir it all together into a loose ball.

Again, don't be worried if this dough feels loose. Give it a minute or two and it will start to set up nicely. I used a muffin scoop to get uniform biscuits.

I put my scoop on a non-stick mat and shaped it slightly. Then I dusted the top with some Parmigiano Reggiano.

These baked up easily and I let them cool slightly before moving so they would retain their shape. Overall it was a baking success!

Cheesy Chive Biscuits

You Will Need:
4 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
1/3 c. coconut flour
1 Tbsp. dried chives
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. cheddar, cubed small
Grated Parmesan to top *if desired

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt and onion powder. Slowly whisk in the liquid coconut oil.

In another bowl, whisk together the coconut flour , baking powder and chives. Add this mixture to the egg mixture and stir till well combined. It will come together as you stir. Stir in the cheddar cheese. Scoop batter with a muffin scoop and drop onto a lined baking sheet. Use your fingers to gently flatten and shape the biscuits. Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Allow to cool on the tray slightly before removing.


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