Monday, April 30, 2012

Super Simple Chocolate Monkey Bread

Here's a recipe for a sweet treat that's super simple to make and only requires three ingredients, Chocolate Monkey Bread.

Here's what you need:

(1) tube of crescent roll dough (if they have the seamless dough that is not perforated, get that, it'll be easier to work with)

Nutella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Here's what you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Spray the inside of a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread a piece of wax paper over a cutting board. Spread the crescent roll dough into one flat rectangle on the wax paper.

2. Use a butter knife to spread about a 1/2 cup of Nutella onto the dough in thin layer. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mini semisweet chocolate chips over Nutella.

3. Next, roll the dough into a log, starting by rolling in one of the long sides. Cut the log into 1" chunks.

4. Arrange the dough chunks side by side all around the bundt pan. It may look sparse, but they'll expand upon baking. Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the dough has risen and is nice and brown.

5. When it comes out of the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes and then dig in. This recipe makes the perfect snack for our family, but you can easily double or triple it to feed a larger crowd. Just pop the dough pieces on top of each other and increase the cooking time to make sure the dough cooks all the way through.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Italian Trail Mix?

If you happen to be my friend on Facebook, you may have seen this photo that I uploaded the other night of my latest recipe creation. I call it "Italian Trail Mix". Everyone was all gung-ho for it until I said it was pasta with tomatoes, nuts and raisins.

If you decide to make it, take a picture of it and I'll send you a dollar. It takes some courage to put nuts and raisins in a red sauce with pasta. People always think I'm Italian and I think this dish speaks pretty clearly that I'm actually not. :) But it's good, I promise.

Italian Trail Mix was born out of desire to use up some of the stuff that's been sitting in my kitchen cabinets taking up space for Godonlyknowshowlong. Like a huge unopened box of raisins that I'm sure I bought for a specific purpose at some point, less than half a bag each of walnuts and almond slivers and a lonely can of chickpeas.

Here's what I used:

(1) box of bow-tie pasta (you could use whatever pasta you have on hand)
2 or 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
3 or 4 tablespoons of chopped garlic
1/2 cup of chopped nuts (I used about a 1/4 cup each of walnuts and almond slivers, you could use whatever nuts you have sitting around or omit them all together) 
(1) can of crushed tomatoes
(1) can of chickpeas, (rinse and drain)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Anywhere from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depends on your preference for heat, I probably used about a 1/2 teaspoon and it had just enough of a kick without being super hot)
1 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Some parsley to give it a little color, it definitely lacked color

Here's what I did:

1. Put a big pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Once it starts to boil, add salt as recommended on the pasta box, bring the water back to a full boil and then add pasta. Cook as per directions, 10 or 12 minutes. While you're waiting for the water to boil, put 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and warm on low heat. Then add 3 or 4 tablespoons of chopped garlic, cook and stir 3 or 4 minutes, until it starts to smell really yummy and gets darker in color. Then add chopped nuts, stir and give the garlic and nuts a few minutes to get jiggy. I had never cooked garlic and nuts together before, and let me tell you, it looks and smells divine.

2. Next add a can of crushed tomatoes, chickpeas, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir it all up and let it simmer about 15 minutes. Before you drain your pasta, dip a measuring cup in scoop out a cup of the starchy water. You'll probably need it to thin out the dish when it's done. Drain pasta.

3. Add raisins and cinnamon to skillet, stir and continue to cook for a few minutes, just long enough for the raisins for soften and the flavors to blend. Turn off the heat and add pasta to skillet. Stir it up to combine, add pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce. I used about a half a cup. Top with parsley to give it a little color. Next time I think I'll use tri-color pasta and maybe throw some spinach in to give it some color.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wittlebee: Monthly Kids Clothing Club *Review*

I love, love, LOVE Wittlebee!

It's always an exciting day when the Wittlebee box arrives, like it did today. 

Not familiar with Wittlebee? It's a monthly children's clothing club (birth to size 6). Each month you receive a box of brand new, name brand clothes in the size and gender you've selected. Your personal Wittlebee Stylist hand picks those clothes based on your preferences. You can get the nitty gritty on the Wittlebee FAQ page.

It's just $39.99 a month and that includes shipping. You can save $10 off your first month by using my link, click here. There's no obligation and you can cancel at any time. 

We received our 4th Wittlebee box today and I'm thrilled with it as always. Let me share it with you so you get a better idea of just what Wittlebee is all about. 

Here's what you're box will look like when you crack it open: 

The clothes come neatly folded and wrapped in tissue paper. Sometimes there's even a nice little note from your stylist. 

Here's what we got today:

*Note the Wittlebee logo sticker, which is what my little guy was most excited about. :)*

A pair of super cute Dockers brand dump truck socks and these rad Gap undies...

A black Makaveli polo shirt and Boyz Wear by Nannette denim shorts...

Striped t-shirt from Old Navy...

Blue plaid shorts by Makaveli...

Green Goldenwood polo shirt...

And my favorite piece this box, this preppy Gymboree polo shirt...

I hope you'll decide to give Wittlebee a try too. :)

*In full disclosure, I was not approached by nor compensated by Wittlebee to write this review. I simply think it's a fantastic service that I really enjoy and wanted to share it with you. However, the Wittlebee links included in this review are my personal referral links and I do receive credit for new members who sign up via my link.*

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Letter to my 17 Year Old Self

If you had the chance to share some words of wisdom with your 17 year old self, what would you say?

I often wish that Future Me could pay me a visit, give me some direction and share a glimpse of what lies ahead. I'm fairly certain that if my 17 year old self could pop in and check out her future, she wouldn't believe her eyes.

Dear 17 Year Old Self,

This is weird, right? I'm sure you have a lot of questions for me. I can't answer very much for you. Most things you're just going to have to wait to find out on your own.

I already know the first thing on your mind and since it's the most important thing to you right now and the least important of what you actually need to know, I'll tell you:

No, you never have sex with Jack Reilly. Or hold his hand. Or meet his Mom.

I know. I'm sorry. If it makes you feel any better, it won't matter in a year anyway. Honest.

I do have good news. You graduate high school! Come could act a little more enthusiastic about that! Especially since no one else thinks you will, not even you. But you do and if I could go back and do it all over for us, I would -- in a heart beat.

I'm going to tell you something that's really going to blow your mind....ya ready?

You have two kids.

Both boys and they're AMAZING.

Relax. You're really good at being a Mom.

Now if that wasn't enough to send you into total shock, I'm going to tell you who their father is. You'd better sit down for this one...

You know Shannon Nagel's boyfriend, Ray??

Nooo, not him. His brother. No, the other brother, Larry.  I'm not kidding. I swear to God.

I know...I don't even understand it. It's all good. Promise.

I think you've had enough to hold you over. Like I said, some things you're going to have to wait to find out on your own. I do have some advice for you and I really, really hope you'll take it. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about...

1. Get off your ass and start exercising. Right now you think you'll be healthier in the future. That couldn't be further from the truth.

2. Stop smoking. PLEASE. In the future our teeth are yellow and we always have phlegm and it's awful. And we can't stop doing it. The one thing I can honestly say I'd do over for us is that I never would have lit that first cigarette.

3. Save your money. We're broke as shit in the future. All the CD's you're spending $20+ on will be $5 or less at Walmart and in the future no one uses CD's anyway. Oh yeah, Cape May County gets a Walmart. Don't tell anyone. You don't want to ruin the surprise.

4. Do not apply for your first credit card until you are 30. And if you do, don't apply for 8 more after that.

5. Don't take any drugs that you can't immediately pick from the ground and smoke or ingest for the desired effect. Everything else is bad. Despite what you think now, it's true what they say, drugs are bad.

6. Get your friggin' driver's license. In the future we STILL don't drive and we're really lame because of it.

7. Enjoy your friendships now. In the future everyone changes, including you, and for the most part, the bonds won't withstand the test of time.

8. Chill out and calm down. Don't obsess about stuff you have no control over, don't overthink, don't get so angry. None of it is worth it. Life is too short to be anything but happy.

9. Don't stop writing. I wish I could tell you we're on the NY Times Best Seller's list in the future, but we're not. Do it because it's what you love. Do it because you want to. Do it for you.

10. We're going to make a lot of mistakes, I can't save us from them. Learn from them. Grow because of them. Embrace them. They'll make us who we are today.

I love you. I wish you'd love yourself. Remember what Sister Angeline always said: "Good, better, best...never let it rest, until your good is your better and your better is your best."

Older You

P.S. - There's something you need to invent. It's called a Pillow Pet. It's a pillow, it's a's a Pillow Pet. We'll be friggin' rich.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Recycled Water Bottle Flowers

Mary, Mary, quite does your garden grow?

With recycled water bottles, popsicle sticks and nail polish all in a row. 

Here's what you need to make this quick & cute craft project with your kids:

The bottoms of water bottles
Old nail polish
Popsicle sticks
Hot Glue Gun (or good tacky craft glue)
And of course, nail polish remover :) 


This is our friend Jamie, with the recycled water bottle flowers she made. 

All you need to do to make these cute flowers is choose two colors of nail polish, use one to paint the center of the bottom of the water bottle and one to paint the rest to make the petals of the flower. We painted popsicle sticks green for the stems and hot glued the flowers to the top when they dried. They look adorable stuck in the garden among the real flowers.

We glued magnets on the back of some of our flowers too.


( Be sure to do this project outside or in a well ventilated area. )

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How To Make Cookie Bark

It doesn't get much quicker or easier than Cookie Bark. All you need are two ingredients: cookies and chocolate.

I made some Oreo Cookie Bark for the kids for an after school snack yesterday. It's so easy to do that the kids can get in on the fun too.

Here's what you do:

1.  I used Oreo cookies and Vanilla Almond Bark. You can use any kind of cookie and any chocolate you like.

The almond bark is nice because it melts so easily (microwave) and hardens so quickly. Melt the chocolate as per the package directions. Pop your cookie sheet into the freezer for 10 minutes to help the chocolate harden faster when you're done.

2. Put the cookies in a plastic bag (I used 15 Oreos) and use your hands to crush them up. Your kids will be particularly fond of this part.

3. Then combine the crushed up cookies and the melted chocolate in a bowl.

4. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Pour cookie mixture onto cookie sheet and spread it out with a spoon. Crush up a few extra cookies and sprinkle them on top, use your hands to push them into the melted chocolate so they stick. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden.

5. Lift the entire piece of wax paper off the cookie sheet and use your hands to break the bark up into pieces.