Copy Cat Olive Garden Salad Dressing…DELICIOUS!

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I found this recipe on Pinterest from the blog Because Barenaked Chef Said So, and I pinned it months ago with the intent to try it eventually (just like many of my pins).  Well, I finally decided yesterday to give it a try and the result was DELICIOUS!  Personally, I was a little skeptical, but after I poured it over the salad and tossed it, I honestly can’t tell the difference from Olive Garden’s version.  If you’re as big a fan as I am of Olive Garden’s salad, TRY THIS RECIPE.  Now I just need to master their breadsticks!

Just a quick note:  This recipe makes a big batch of dressing, so consider a storage container before getting started.  I ended up having to store it in two different salad dressing containers.

Ingredients: 

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

1 Cup Vegetable Oil

1 Teaspoon dried Italian spices

1 Teaspoon salt

1 Teaspoon black pepper

1 Teaspoon sugar

1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder

1 Tablespoon mayonnaise

9 Tablespoons water (that’s 1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon)

2 Envelopes Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix (each envelope is .7 oz)

Instructions:

Combine all the ingredients in a blender on high until combined.  Pour into a container and refrigerate until ready to serve.  You will have to stir it again before serving.

ENJOY!

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Too Young for Disneyland? No way!

We recently had the opportunity to join family in Southern California and take our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to Disneyland.  We considered this trip a while back and decided it would be best to wait until she was over the age of four so that she would hopefully remember most of the trip.  However, we decided “why not” when the opportunity presented itself again and it also meant that our daughter would get the chance to spend some quality time with cousins and relatives she doesn’t get to see often.  So we went….and had the BEST time!

I have to admit, I was a little worried how our daughter would respond to all the excitement of the park.  Was it going to be too overwhelming with all the characters, rides, noise, crowds, and was she even going to appreciate meeting any of the characters?  I couldn’t have been more wrong about this judgement.  She LOVED every minute of it!  I was even surprised to find out she actually knows all the characters and was thrilled to meet the Disney Princesses.  It melted my heart to see her smile with excitement whenever we had an opportunity to meet a princess.

Standing at only 38″ tall, there were definitely limitations to what rides she could participate in.  However, there were plenty of activities to keep her entertained in a two day experience.  The Nemo submarine, Winnie the Pooh,  Buzz Lightyear, Autopia, the Tea Cups, the Carousal, and the Jungle Cruise were among a few of the favorites!

Although, we know at her age she probably won’t remember much about the overall experience, we have absolutely no regrets in taking her this young.  To see the joy and happiness the park brought to her face was worth every penny spent.  Personally, I have been to Disneyland a handful of times and had a different experience every time considering my age and who I was traveling with.  This visit to the park, was by far the best experience I’ve ever had.  It’s not about the rides I partook in or the shows I witnessed, it was about the joy in my daughters eyes.

It’s true what they say about Disneyland, “It IS the happiest place on Earth!”  It’s magical, it’s unforgettable and it’s for ALL ages, young and old.  If you are like us and contemplate when the best time to take your kids to Disneyland is, I hope this post helps your decision.  Good luck and happy travels!

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Last Minute Santa

Phew!  It has been too long since I have logged in.  This time of year always flies by so quickly, so I apologize for being a little distant on the blog this winter.

As we are only a couple of sleeps away from Santa’s debut, we had better wrap up our shopping quickly!  Like every year and in every family, there are always those last minute gifts to prepare.    Have you considered a handmade craft for that special someone this year?  I don’t know about other parents and grandparents out there, but ANYTHING handmade from my 2 1/2 year old is special.  And my heart instantly melts when she hands it to me with a proud grin on her face and says, “Look what I made for you Mama!”

So, if you have little ones in the house and need a last minute gift idea, consider this.  I found this idea on Pinterest and my daughter made one for each set of grandparents this year.  I liked this craft idea because it’s not only seasonal and can be displayed through the holidays, it’s also a memory display.  They are footprints of my daughters feet at this stage in her life and I painted the year on it so we would always be able to look back and compare.  Just a cute, fun and QUICK craft idea, guaranteed to put a smile on any family members face.

Happy Crafting and Merry Christmas!!!

Supplies Needed: 

  • Plain Canvas (any size)…I used an 8×10
  • Acrylic Paint …I used light and dark brown, blue, black and red
  • Small Tip Brush (for painting details on canvas)
  • Larger Foam Brush (for painting the child’s foot quickly before paint dries)
  • Baby wipes (to wipe their feet immediately after painting them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step One:

Paint bottom of child’s foot with the light brown paint and stamp on canvas to make reindeer head.  Repeat with opposite foot until you have two reindeer heads on the canvas.  Wipe paint off feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Two:

Let dry completely and then paint details on (antlers, eyes, nose and and the year).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three:

Let dry completely and gift wrap for that special someone.

Optional:  You can staple a nice red ribbon to the back to create a ribbon loop on top for hanging.  We just set ours on the Christmas tree as extra decoration.  Or you could display it on a plate holder and set on a shelf for display too.

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Creative Minds Jewelry Display

I’m sure my two-year old daughter is a lot like others in that she loves jewelry, nail polish, dress up clothes and anything that says “GIRL” loudly.  She recently acquired many of these items for her turning two celebration and initially I thought we’d throw it all in the same ‘dress up box’ together.  However, that plan soon failed when I was constantly finding costume jewelry in my bed, in her bed, in our dogs bed…and not to mention the long hunts to find the ‘missing necklace’ somewhere in the house…ugh, enough is enough.  What to do with all these pieces?!

My daughter loves to paint and do anything crafty (probably gets that from her mom :)) and I had a few extra blank canvas’ laying around.  So I pulled out my container of miscellaneous paints, containing mostly acrylic paints and puffy paints, and gave her a brush and let her have fun.  She created a lovely piece of artwork she was quite proud of.  Once it dried of course, I screwed six little white metal hooks into the bottom of the wooden canvas frame and hung it on the wall at a height she would be able to access.

So far it has worked like a charm.  Not only are all the costume jewelry pieces in one place, she enjoys the independence and ownership of having a place to put HER jewelry.  Like mommy, she too can put it in safe keeping.

  

Here is what you need for this project: 

Canvas (already framed) – I bought mine at Michael’s craft store for about $5 (11 x 14) on sale

Acrylic paint (or any other paint that can be applied to canvas)

Paint Brush 

Screw Hooks – I bought a pack of six at Wal-Mart for $2

Two nails and a hammer to hang on the wall after you’re done! 

Super easy and fun for the kids…and/or you!

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Ice Cream Theme Birthday Party

I know this post comes to you a little late, considering my daughter’s birthday party was held in mid-July, but I loved the theme and wanted to share it with all of you.  Better late than never, right?

My daughter, Kelly loves ice cream (who doesn’t right?) and therefore, the theme was an easy pick.  It was great for the kids.  They had a blast building their own sundaes and snacking on ice cream themed snacks all day.  Not to mention, it was the middle of summer and it just so happened to be one of those days you can’t eat your ice cream quick enough before it melts all over the place.  It was a perfect day for ice cream and everything cold.

We held it in in the back yard and set up activities for the kids to play, such as a water sprinkler, bubbles, sandbox, fishing pond, water table, balls, and toys.  And as far as the decorations and food went, I was inspired by Pinterest once again.  There are so many ways to search for things on the internet and yet, I still find the most creative and inspirational ideas through Pinterest.  Check it out if you haven’t already!  It’s a cataloging site so you can easily find and ‘bookmark’ where your favorites are in cyber world.

Decorations: I stuck to pretty basic pink decor (table clothes and streamers).  However, instead of just having helium balloons around, I added a cone to the base of each balloon with brown packaging paper to transform the balloons into ice cream cones!

Food: We simply ordered pizza for the main course of the day and then splurged on the sweets!  Of course…it was an ICE CREAM party!   For a snack I had chopped fresh fruit stuffed in waffle cones and for cake I made a cake out of cupcakes in the shape of an ice cream cone as well as a special cake for the birthday girl.  And if we’re gonna load them up with sugar, why not go all out with a full fledge sundae!?  I laid out bowls with different toppings for the kids’ ice cream and they went to town decorating their sundaes.

  

 

Favors:  This was one of my favorite things from the part and I completely forgot to get a photo before handing them all out.  Go figure.  I found fun ice cream sundae plastic glasses and filled them with ice cream themed candies and toys.  I also included a tooth brush :).

Not only was this theme easy for  a mid-summer birthday party, it was fun for the kids too.  I was surprised at how many ice cream themed toys, treats and activities there are in the stores during the summer months.  It certainly made this a very easy party to put together.  There were so many other ideas I wanted to incorporate however, I did my best not to go overboard.

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Tomato Pepper Salsa…A Must Try!

A little over a week ago I visited the Red Deer Farmer’s Market.  My husband and I took our daughter and were more or less just looking for something to do on a nice and sunny Saturday morning.  We were just about to exit the market and stumbled upon this booth where they were selling fresh picked peppers (jalapeno, bell peppers, Thai peppers, and so many others).  We are big fans of fresh mexican fare (which is extremely hard to come by around here), so we looked into purchasing some peppers to add to our home cooked mexican dinner we had planned for the week.

When we were browsing the peppers a little closer, we realized the vendor had variety bags of peppers that you could purchase for $5 and his own personal salsa recipe was inside for your convenience.  What a great idea!  So, we jumped on it and bought a bag for $5.  A week went by and I finally got around to making the salsa.  It made 12 cups!  So, we shared with a couple of friends and so far, it’s gotten rave reviews.  The man at the market definitely knows his salsa!  This recipe is a perfect sweet and spicy blend.  It’s DELICIOUS!

I shared a batch, kept a batch in the fridge AND froze a batch.  Highly recommend all you local folks visit him at the Red Deer Farmer’s Market (unfortunately, I didn’t catch his business name).  Here is the recipe for your enjoyment:

Tomato Pepper Salsa

8-10 C Peeled, chopped Roma Tomatoes

5 Sweet bell peppers; He recommends 2 green, 1 red, 1 orange, 1 yellow

2 C chopped onions

1C chopped Jalapeno peppers (approx 8)

WEAR GLOVES TO CHOP HOT PEPPERS!!

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 C vinegar

1 5.5 oz can tomato paste

2 T sugar

1 T salt

2 t paprika

1 t dried oregano

Put all ingredients into a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stir often.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring often, until thick enough to coat spoon.  Fill and seal in sterilized jars.  Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Single batch makes approx. 12 cups.

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The “Big Cook” is a Mommy Lifesaver

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We have all been there before.  Whether you’re eight months pregnant or have your hands full with extracurricular activities and busy kids at home, we can all benefit from a “Big Cook!”  Not only is a Big Cook a great excuse to get friends together, but by the end of the day you have a fully stocked freezer of ready to pop in the oven meals.  Personally, I know there are several days where I get busy during the day and realize around 3 o’clock that I forgot to pull something out of the freezer for dinner.  Then I’m stuck quickly de-frosting something in the microwave or calling my husband and suggesting it’s a good night to eat out.

I had the opportunity to join some girlfriends yesterday for  a Big Cook.  It was my first experience doing one, but some of the girls were well seasoned in this area.  One of the girls emailed us a grocery list a couple of weeks in advance and we were all assigned items to bring the day of the Big Cook.  We met at 10a.m. and had successfully prepared 80 meals by 4p.m.!  BBQ Pork, Tricolor Chicken and Pasta, Taco Toss, and Zippy Pork Chops were just a few among our menu.  Our day began by organizing all of our ingredients into one area.  Then we came up with a game plan as to what we were each going to be doing.  I browned 15 pounds of hamburger, while some were mixing the sauces for the burger meals and others labeling the bags the meals were being placed into with the meal title and cooking instructions.  We continued this system through the pork and chicken dishes as well.  Throughout the day, we took turns washing dishes and dividing the meals among everyone.  At the end of the day, we each had 10 different dishes and 20 meals for four people (two of each dish)!  When it was all complete and clean up was over, we sat down with our receipts and added all the expenses together and divided by how many people were taking food home.  The average cost came out to about $9 per meal.  Not too bad when you consider the fact that each meal is for four people.  That’s about $2.25 per person per meal!

The idea for The Big Cook came from three busy mom’s named Joanne Smith, Lorelei Thomas and Deanna Siemens.  They decided one day to get together and cook in mass in order to prepare meals to freeze for future evenings.  They developed fast and healthy meals that could easily be frozen for future use.  The idea took off and in 1997 they published the cookbook titled The Big Cook.  This is one of those products I saw and said to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that!?”  It’s such a great idea and there is an enormous market of mothers and fathers that would benefit from this style of cooking.

My husband and I are pretty adventurous with cooking and I wouldn’t go as far to say that we will rely on this method completely, but for those days you really just don’t feel like cooking or don’t know WHAT to cook, it’s great to know you have meals ready to go in the freezer!  Another great thing about this style of cooking is it allows us to focus more time and energy on the side dishes that surround the entrée.  For me, I usually spend most of my time preparing the entrée and then add simple vegis and rice or potato with it.  With The Big Cook in my life now, I can focus more on some new side dishes.

Overall, The Big Cook is a great concept for any family.  I am already looking forward to the next event and I hope that you adopt the idea among your friends and family and give it a try.  So fun and so easy!  Happy cooking!

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