Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Goodness: Pumpkin Pie Muddy Buddies and more!

I absolutely get all giddy when October rolls around.  It means my scarecrow man gets to come out of hiding we can start the Holiday celebrations!  I could do with all the bloody, gutsy stuff but I love it.  Even if it means lots of sugar and crazy kids.  It's ALL fun (I tend to wipe out tired, post sugar meltdowns from my memory. . . because let's be real here: with kids it happens).  I love the pumpkins, the scarecrows, the fall colors, the pumpkin spice lattes. . . oh, it warms me up with happiness.

Now, we come to today.   I am probably the most unprepared mom ever.  As I am typing this, I should probably be working on my oldest son's costume. . . which was last minute because I didn't get my butt in gear for a Peter Pan costume to come to life.  Oh well.  We will get to it.  The last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of illness, husband gone, and craziness.  So, last night, I made up for all lack of motivation and procrastination.
We carved our pumpkins.  They turned out so cute!  We didn't do anything fancy, but we had fun continuing our annual tradition.
Then, after the kids were tucked snuggly into bed, I dug into a bag of Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses.  And got almost caught up on this season of Once Upon A Time. It's how I roll.  
I also worked on these nifty treat bags for Ethan's class party today.  I am in love with the way they came out!  Super cute!  I used the dicut for the Big Shot for the base/face.  And then used my scalloped bunch and circle punches to do the trick.  I couldn't find my smaller circle punch so I broke out my Cricut to get the eye balls the perfect size. . . which took some serious creativity (I used the eyeballs for the racoon on the It's a Hoot cartridge)!
Then, for the teachers, I melted all those Hershey kisses (don't worry, I didn't really consume the whole bag. . . I actually had some of my favorite ice cream) and made the most amazing Pumpkin Pie Muddy Buddies.  I really wasn't sure how they were going to turn out, but seriously they tasted just like Pumpkin Pie.  I am hoping I still find the bags tomorrow because I want to make some for Thanksgiving and I am not sure if they keep them around that long.  

So, if you are looking for something yummy to make for your Halloween festivities tonight, I highly recommend these. . . they take about 5 minutes (starting after you unwrap all those beautifully wrapped foil kisses).  

Pumpkin Pie Muddy Buddies

5 cups Rice Chex Cereal
1 bag of Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers

1.  Unwrap all those Hershey kisses (try not to eat all of them).
2.  Stick in a microwave bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time.  
3.  Pour rice chex into a large bowl.  Pour melted kisses over the top and very carefully mix them together (the goal is not to crush the chex, but to coat them nicely). 
4.  Transfer to a large zip lock bag and add powdered sugar and graham cracker crumbs.  Zip it up and give it a good shake, toss, or juggle until each piece of cereal is now coated evenly with melted chocolate, and powdered sugar and graham cracker crumbs.  
5.  Pour chex cereal out on a cookie sheet for about an hour so that the candy can set up.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oh, so yummy Black Bean Chili

I absolutely love fall.  It is by far my favorite time of the year!  So, I thought I would share with you one of my favorite fall (well, I won't lie. . . I make this year round!) meals.  

First of all, I am not a soup person.  It just isn't my favorite thing.  But give me a thick, dip-able soup any day.  I love chili, chicken tortilla soup, corn chowder.  I even love a delicious bowl of onion soup.  I also think that chili is one of the most adaptable meals ever.  You can eat it as is, with a hot dog, potato, over corn chips, and of course corn bread. Another thing, I LOVE to do is "accessorize" my chili.  Sour Cream, cilantro, crushed up chips, avocado, etc.  just look so pretty topped on top of your favorite chili or chicken tortilla soup.    
Several years ago, when I was menu planning, we started trying to eat less meat.  I was never really good at making it Meatless Mondays, because I like to eat what we have food for.  Thankfully, this recipe uses a lot of ingredients that I keep on hand anyway.  It also freezes really nicely.  It's one of my favorite things to do with soup. . . freeze part of it for another quick meal later on in the month.
Oh so yummy, Black Bean Chili
adapted from Epicurious

Note:  When baking, it isn't as easy to make adaptations to recipes because of the chemistry involved.  When cooking, it so much fun to make a recipe that has your fingerprint added into it.  So, here's my version of the original located in the link above. 

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
6 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups corn (I like to use Trader Joe's frozen grilled corn)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp chili powder (I usually use half regular half Pampered Chef Chili Lime rub)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 can black beans (1 can rinsed and drained, 1 can with the juices)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 16 oz can tomato sauce

Chopped fresh cilantro
sour cream
grated cheese
chopped green onions
tortilla chips/corn chips

Heat oil in your favorite large pot.  Once it is warmed up, add onions, peppers, and garlic.  Saute until onions are soft.  Add in corn.  Mix in spices and stir together for a couple minutes.  Mix in beans and tomato sauce.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and a bit of lime juice if desired.  Serve with desired toppings (or just plain).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Don't Push the Button, Part 2

Remember last Monday when I wrote about how awesome this book was?  Yeah, it's still awesome!  I was originally supposed to include an interview with the author, but the answers never got back to me in time for last week's post.  Good news. . . just in time for me to announce the winner, my interview with Jon Cotter came in my inbox.  (I may have jumped out of my chair and did a happy dance. . . not sure though).  It may be almost as cool as when Jon Archambault hung out in the class I was subbing for.  Remember, I love children's picture books!  
 What inspired the story? 
I was lucky enough to have spent a few years teaching art and music to pre-schoolers so my students were always my main inspiration. Part of my job was reading stories to them, so it was extremely beneficial to sit with my target audience and see first hand how they reacted to different kinds of stories, characters, colors, textures, you name it. "Don't Push the Button" came about from me simply trying to make something that I know would be fun to read with my students.

Why did you decide to write for kids?
I wish that I could say that I set out trying to make the world a better and happier place for children, but the truth is that children's book illustration is one of the last places that someone can make money by drawing. As illustration work for magazines and newspapers dwindle, I felt like there will always be a place for illustrators in the world of kids books. The print industry will change, but the ritual of spending time with your child to tell them a story before bed will not. As long as that ritual exists, there will be a need for content.

What was your favorite books as a kid?
My favorite books as a kid was anything by Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Shel Silverstein, and Roald Dahl. Bill Watterson is probably my favorite example of beautiful writing and beautiful artwork feeding off each other. Shel Silverstein's poems and drawings still make me laugh today, and Quentin Blake's squiggly yet masterful illustration of Dahl's words are a huge inspiration.

What are your favorite current books?
Right now my favorite books are books by Mo Willems and Jon Klassen. They both have a very direct style that I think is great at getting through to kids in a noisy world. "Don't let the pigeon drive the bus" and "where is my hat" were huge inspirations for DPTB.

What is the hardest part of writing/illustrating?
I'd say is the pacing of the story is the hardest part for me. It takes a considerable amount of planning to make sure that something that takes weeks of drawing reads as if its spontaneously happening in front of the reader. For me it's an exercise of paying attention to the details while keeping in the mind the whole.

What was your favorite part of the story?
My favorite part of the book are the middle spreads. It was really fun to draw that kind of cutesie chaos.

And the part you were all wanting to know. . . who won the giveaway?  

Congratulations Rhonda S.  I will be sending you an email tonight!  Thanks to everyone who entered!  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Menu Planning 101

The excitement over Monday's BIG give-away is still very big!  I hope you all take the opportunity to enter to win a copy.  In fact, if you haven't gotten around to it, stop reading this, click here and enter to win.  It won't take long.  Then you can come back here and continue reading.  It's okay, I'll wait.  Really, I will.  

see, I am waiting. 

still waiting.  

oh good, you're back.  Thanks for going and voting!  I can't wait to read all about your favorite children's book.  And even more thanks, if you shared it with your friends. . . I appreciate it!  I do!  In fact, I am thinking about doing another giveaway in November. . . it's going to be awesome.  But, until then, the topic of my post. . . 

Remember a couple posts back to this post and my families crazy monthly tradition of survivor week?  We had a great conversation about budgeting and so far, my favorite post was that it is really hard to budget food when we love food.  Seriously, food is awesome!  

So, I thought that this week, I would share my weekly chore activity of menu planning and some tips that might help you along the way.  I really do enjoy it. . . most of the time.   Wednesday's are my days to sit down and plan my meals and make my shopping list.  I do the majority of my shopping on Thursdays or Fridays depending on our schedule.  

I love pretty things. . . I am pretty sure that you knew that, right?  Well, I really think that I am motivated more to menu plan when I have something cool/pleasant to the eye to write it on.  So, meet my current menu planner that I found at Anthropology (you can find them other places, too).  You can also find free printable menu planners on Pinterest (click here if you want to go to my board quickly).

My next tip is to use your resources.  Find magazines that you love and peruse them.  Search the things you've pinned onto your food board on Pinterest.  Some of the recipes are not so great and others have been fantastic.

Use your tried and true recipes.  I am constantly trying something new, but the ones that are keepers go inside this box.  I highly recommend these because sometimes blogs disappear and technology fails us, but pen and paper still work.  (sounds kind of old fashioned, doesn't it?)

Here are a few more of my guidelines (including the ones above in list form).

1.  Find a place that is comfortable, so you can peruse your favorite food places. 
2.  Your menu planner should be something you enjoy writing on.  
3.  Make your grocery list as you work on your menu.
4.  Use food magazines, blogs, Pinterest, and your favorite go-to recipes. 
5.  Plan meals with leftovers.
6.  I try to plan at least 2 meals a month that have enough for a freezer meal. . . that at least 2 meals a month I don't have to cook (comes in handy when you are out of money in your food budget and doing your own survivor week).  Soups work great, as well as shredded chicken, shredded pork, and baked pastas. 

What tips to you have for menu planning?  What's your favorite site to go to?

Oh and if you cheated  waited til you finished reading this post click here to go and enter the contest for the free book.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Read this! {really!!!!}

The day has come where I get to write this post.  

No kidding.  I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself!  I've been giddy since I found out about it!  Giddy, may not even describe my excitement!  

Today is the day I get to share this book with you!  And you know how much I love children's literature (It's the teacher in me. . . or the mom in me. . . or the kid at heart)!  

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to read this book for a review and was then asked to join their blog hop and today is my day!  (I told you I was excited!) This was s a fun read for our whole family!   The story is about a monster (we like monsters over here!) that is very curious about a button that isn't supposed to be pushed.  But through a series of pushes, funny things happen to our new monster friend!  

The story is incredibly interactive with the reader.  It reminded me of this book and this book. There are no actual buttons that make noise, like these more annoying books that drive parents up the wall! This book used the imagination, of my 2 year old, 5 year old, and my husband.  We all got into it!  I read this book first to Weston, who was sitting on the toilet.  It was a great way to pass time potty training!  Then, I read it to my Ethan before bed. . . he wanted to read it over and over again!  

I highly recommend this book for your family. . . it's a great read and a fun book for your collection! 

But. . . if you want a chance to win a copy of your own keep scrolling!  

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


This has been a strange week and it's only Wednesday.  Ever have one of those weeks where you can't seem to get anything done or seem to think straight?  Yep, this has been that week.
Today, I went to the dentist for a regular check up, getting my teeth all nice and shiny clean and the hygenienst says "uh oh!"  Yep. . . not something you probably want to hear while you are getting your teeth cleaned.  A tooth that had broken 3 years ago (when I was prego with Weston) had come lose, which was something I had suspected was happening.  So basically, as she was cleaning my teeth, part of my tooth came loose and fell on my tongue.  Now, this was actually perfect, because I was already at the dentist and they fixed it right there.  Unfortunately, that meant lots of novacaine and a numb face for the majority of the day (in fact, it is still numb right now).  Kind of funny.  Needless to say, I spent my afternoon cuddling with my 5 year old who was home sick (again!).

So, here's what I have been up to lately. . . it makes me feel like I am really accomplishing something even though it feels like I'm not.  Posting my happenings to instagram really helps. . .
Weston has at least one pair of pajamas done and 3 other pairs almost done.  It has been way cheaper to make them then to go and buy pajamas. . . I will be posting my tips and how I did it soon. . . be on the lookout!  By the way, he is officially potty trained and has taken to it quite nicely.
A couple weeks ago, I was dared to make some yummy pumpkin goodness!  They taste amazing and I will be sharing the recipe with you in the next few days.
Meet my bathroom redo. . . We painted the walls last week and this week I am working on the cabinets using Annie Sloan paint.  I am so excited at how it's turning out.

Fixing lunches for my 5 year old has proven quite the challenge.  But, I am loving these lunch containers that fit right into his lunch box.  I can fill it with yummy lunch options that my son can chow down on.  He has decided that PBJ's are for at home and so, creativity has been key.  Thank goodness, he loved deviled eggs! 

Have you liked Out of the Right Brain's Facebook page?  Or are you following me on instagram?  

Also, Monday I have a really awesome giveaway coming . . . so please share and pass the word about my blog.  I can't wait to share it with you!  

Friday, October 04, 2013

Survivor Week

image source: here

Last week, as with most end of the month weeks, are what I like to call SURVIVOR WEEK.  
They are harder than others.  
They make me think outside of the box.
They make me get a little more creative when picking out recipes. 

image source: here

It's the week, where there is little or no money left in my food budget and as easy as it would be to just grab money out of savings, we don't like to do it. . . because where would our savings be when we want to go and have a fun trip or say, buy a jogging stroller? I used to be bad and just go spend money because we needed the food.  But, after some practice, I am finding that we actually have food to use. . . we really aren't going to starve. So, it has become a rule that once the allotted money is gone, we can only spend if it's for things that are necessary. . . like milk or eggs.  Creativity has been key.  Thinking outside of the box is good for the brain.  DIY is necessary.  

image source: here

Sometimes dinners are what I call lame.  I'm not going to lie, sometimes they are just not that pretty.  Other times, I completely surprise myself with something truly amazing.  Last week, I discovered this recipe. . . it is now on our favorite list!  It is usually a bit more work for me, but it is well worth it to save some money!  We use the bread maker. . . a lot.  Sometimes, I have leftovers that I froze for later meals. . . that's like Christmas in the freezer!  Sometimes, I find something in the pantry that I picked up because it was on sale a few weeks before and forgot about it.   The difficult part of Survivor week is the lack of produce.  The majority of our food purchases are fresh produce. . . and once it's gone during survivor week, it's gone.  But, I promise, we usually are still eating pretty healthy.  

image source: here

Here are some helpful tips for implementing your own survivor week:
1.  Take inventory of what you have.  
2.  Menu plan (I will be doing a post about that soon.)
3.  Use the internet and your cookbooks to look for recipes using what you have. 
4.  Try to go to the store as little as possible. . . if you need something send your husband, that way if you are like me, you won't pick up anything extra.
5.  Try new recipes.  
6.  Try new techniques. . . if you don't have a bread maker, try making your own bread.  There are some great quick bread recipes on Pinterest. 

Do you have some of your own tips on how you help your food budget?  Please share by leaving a comment!  I love it when I get feedback!  

*** all images were found via Pinterest and are linked back to their original etsy shops.  Please visit those shops if you are interested in their artwork. 

Have a great weekend!!!!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Healthy donuts? Is there really such thing?

This week my house looks like a tornado recently swept through.  I'm okay with it.  I'm okay with it solely because Weston is potty trained.  I think in the last 24 hours we have consumed more jelly beans than should possibly be consumed.  I'm okay with that. . . because today he has told me he wanted to go to the bathroom and actually went. . . every 5 minutes!  So, after 3 days of potty training  I am ready to clean and get some things done!  We should celebrate. With donuts.
Saturday morning I made these beautiful things.  I had been wanting to make them since I pinned the recipe last week, but it was survivor week in our house (I'll fill you in on that later).  In other words, I was missing a lot of the ingredients.  But, thankfully I went to the store just before the bananas went too far south.
These were so easy and quick to make. I made a couple of adaptions from the original and it ended making more than the average baked doughnut recipe.  My favorite part was that my boys devoured them. . . all of them.  It was like they couldn't get enough of them.  And because they were healthier than the average doughnut, I didn't care.

Banana Chocolate Chip Baked Donuts

1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup greek yogurt (I used 2 percent Fage)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

2 tbs butter, unsalted
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 tsp vanilla

:: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  
:: Spray your doughnut pan with spray (do this each time, you use it and this batch you will use it at least twice!)
:: Using a medium bowl, beat your banana, yogurt, butter, and eggs.  The original recipe called for using your stand mixer. . . I didn't even bother using it.  Use your favorite spatula and stir it up until well blended. 
:: Add dry ingredients, fold in until just combined.  As with muffins, DO NOT over mix. 
:: Stir in chocolate chips (but remember, don't stir too much). 
:: Spoon batter into mold, filling them almost all the way to the top.  
:: Bake for about 15 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. 
:: Allow them to cool for a few minutes before moving them to a rack.  While they are still warm dip them in the glaze. 

Glaze:  Combine ingredients together and stir until smooth and shiny. 


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