Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School Dinners: Shrimp 2 Ways!

I have loved shrimp my whole life.  Unfortunately, my husband hates it, and it hasn't always been reasonable for our tight budget.  Since hamburger and bacon have gotten higher in price, however, shrimp has stayed relatively stable in price.  You can get a pound of shrimp from the freezer section for less than many beef products on the market.

To get my kids excited about trying this rare eat, I created two dishes that I thought they would enjoy.  Both take little prep time, and they were quick to get on the table on a busy weeknight.

The first, Shrimp Au Gratin (which is based on the recipe found in Miss Kay's Duck Commander Kitchen Recipe Book), can be served in one large baking dish, or in individual casserole dishes.

You'll need:
  • 1 pound shrimp, any size
  • 1/2 pound scallops, any size
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 quart whipping cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (Great Value Italian Style works well)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
To make it, melt the butter in a skillet and add the onion and celery.  Cook about 6 minutes on medium high heat, or until softened but still firm.  Add the flour and mix constantly (do not let it brown.) Then slowly add the cream, stirring while you pour and stir in the cheese.  After it has become a very thick sauce, pour it into a glass rectangle baking dish.

In the same pan, stir fry the shrimp and scallops until pink and cooked through.  Add the seafood to the baking dish and cover the entire dish with the bread crumbs (evenly spread out.)  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until it bubbles.  Allow to set for 15 minutes before serving!  We like eating this with crusty bread or crackers.

The second dish is a simple shrimp salad.  You can serve it on a bed of lettuce (or bok choy, as our family likes it) or with crusty bread.

You'll need:
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp, chopped
  • 1 hard boiled egg, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup mayo (not salad dressing)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and chill until served.  This makes a great sandwich filler for a sack lunch.  Make extra and use it for a brown bag option.

Does your family like seafood?  We find that -- even though we are a landlocked state, there is a wide selection of frozen fish, shrimp, crab, and more at our local Walmart.  We try to enjoy it once a week, so that my kids get accustomed to trying new fish.

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I've received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Review of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes

I made a meal plan this week.  Yes, it's been a long time; I actually used to share my meal plans with you every week!  As I've watched baby #6 learn to coast, the garden get taken over with weeds, and our homeschool year begin, however, I'm very lucky to get anything delicious on the table at all -- much less put together a plan!

Since receiving the Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes book by Donna-Marie Pye to review, however, things have really changed.  The past 4 days, I have made 4 yummy, hot meals for my family that they actually enjoyed.  I have tried new ingredients that I have never had before (tomatillos, anyone?).  I have also limited my cooking dishes to just ONE.  My slow cooker!

This book is unlike any other slow cooker book I've read.  First, the recipes are truly unique.  This is not another collection of the same dishes you could make in the oven or on the stove, but adapted to work in the slow cooker.  They are new-to-me recipes that may require a little prep on the front end (The Coffee Pot Roast, for example, needs 48 hours marinated in vinegar to be sublime). I have never had my family eat up all that I have cooked in a new meal before, however, so I am especially pleased at how little food we have wasted.

Recipes we have tried include the Chili Verde (with chicken substituted for pork) and a tasty combo of potatoes, baked beans, and meat.  I have discovered that most of the 200 recipes shared in this book are perfect for my busy lifestyle, and there are only a handful that don't fit my favorite flavor profiles.  (Plus, there are over 80 beautiful color photos of the food; if you're scared to try something new, these can help you decide!)

And since I'm a big fan of tips, the sections on using the slow cooker more efficiently, ways to soak and use up dried beans, big batch planning, and recipes that use leftovers are pretty amazing, too.

You can find this must-have cookbook at Amazon for well under the $24.95 list price!

*Title received to review. Opinions are my own.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Giving is Really That Simple with the SIMPLE Giving Program!

This post is in partnership with The Motherhood and Champions for Kids. All opinions are my own.

How many times a week do you shop? If you are at all like me and my unorganized family, we shop 1-3 times a week for items we run out of.  With school starting earlier in the week, I have promised to get more together with my meal planning, but I also know that life can get hectic.  This doesn't mean that I can't think about more than just the needs of my family, however.

Champions for Kids has made it easy for even the busiest mom on a budget to help children in their immediate community.  Their programs are designed to help ensure that all kids have:
  • Someone who cares 
  • A place to belong 
  • Hope for tomorrow 
  • and provisions for their journey. All children.
It's sad to think that in the "provisions" category, there just isn't enough for many kids.  The items a needy child may do without can include food, toiletries, or clothing.  The SIMPLE Giving program, started and administered by Champions for Kids, is an effortless way to help out in this important category.  This year, they are focusing on healthy snacks!

Here's how it works:

1.  Visit your local Walmart.
2. Look for the specially-marked merchandise displays. Brands that you may see include Dole, Emerald and Kellogg's
 3. Pick up an extra product (or 2, or 3, or more!)
4. Pay for your purchase and drop your donation into the purple bin.

If you don't know where the merchandise displays or donation bin are, ask any associate. They should be able to help you!

The program is taking place in over 1,400 Walmart stores nationwide until August 18th. So you still have plenty of time to make a note on your weekly shopping list.

Where does the food go after you give?  School nurses, social workers, homeless student liaisons, and other helpers make sure it gets to kids who needs it -- in the community that it is donated!

Champions for Kids will also provide up to $5,000 in awards to the districts receiving the top three donation totals from a single store in each Walmart division to help with programs that provide healthy foods to kids who needs it.

Before you go, check out this quick but truthful video about the power of just one...


If you'd like to help, but can't afford to purchase extras, I encourage you to share this blog post with the hashtag #SIMPLEGiving.

Chemical-Free Anti-Aging Treatments for $1 a Day!

I don't know why, but when I hit 35, my skin took a nose dive toward "aging." My usually smooth skin started showing wrinkles and dullness. I had been faithfully using some over-the-counter beauty products with wrinkle treatments in them, but I found these unusable after my last child; my face would react horribly to most of the chemicals in them.  What was left for me to do?

In addition to making preventative care my number one priority via sun protection in my moisturizer (I don't just want smooth skin, I also don't want skin cancer), I wanted something that could help take the fine lines away and deal with "dullness."  I was asked to try the Illumask, which is available now at Walmart for under $30.  This mask comes in 2 types: Anti-Aging (which is the one I tried) and the Anti-Acne.

How it works is simple.  Take the mask out of the box, put in on your clean, dry face, and push the power button.  The mask does all the work of treating your face with safe phototherapy via red and infrared lights.  Your eyes are protected, as dark lenses are built into the mask.  The treatment stops automatically after 15 minutes, meaning you can't overdo it.

Since light bulbs degrade over time, and the option to treat at home is a pretty neat privilege (no time taken to visit the spa/doctor and you don't have to pay for the visit), the mask is only good for 30 treatments.  After that time, it won't power on, and it's time to buy a new mask.  Because of this feature, you'll want to be sure to have a full 15 minutes available for a treatment (there is no "pause" button), and kids will need to stay away from your mask so that they don't accidentally turn it on and waste a session or two.

These masks have been selling online for upwards of $50 prior to now.  Seeing them at my local store for an Every Day Low Price of $29.97 is pretty fantastic! (And remember, you can buy it online, too!)

Did it work? Yes. The manual says that you could possibly see improvement in your skin by 2 weeks, but I was seeing brighter skin and the diminishing of tiny wrinkles around my eyes by day 4.  This may be because I consider my skin to be much younger looking than, say, someone who has experienced time out in the sun their whole life.  I would imagine that using it sooner in your aging process would show results sooner.

I think that the most exciting thing about this product is that it brings to light the signs of aging in ways I never realized.  I have been battling a droopy chin for years; it's a family trait.  I lost some weight after my last baby, and was disappointed to see that my full chin never really went away like it did with previous weight loss victories.  Using the mask, however, really did quite a bit to tighten that area.  It turns out that, over time, my chin and neck skin was losing elasticity and falling down, independent of weight gain.  Firming up my skin has helped this issue that I am very self-conscious about.

If you are looking for a chemical-free way to treat skin, this is a good option.  One thing to note is that the manual says not to use it if you are pregnant or nursing, as it really hasn't been tested on women in these conditions.  As with any beauty treatments, however, it is best to discuss it with your doctor if you are unsure; this blog post is not intended to offer medical advice.

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I've received samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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