Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (without Tahini)

Meet my new favorite thing.

My new healthy favorite thing.

My new healthy favorite thing that even my picky eater will eat.

This. is. good. 

So good that I have to remember to share.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus (without Tahini)

1 medium roasted red pepper
1 (16 oz.) can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic (or 1/8 tsp. garlic powder)
salt to taste

1.  Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. 
2.  Adjust seasonings to your taste.

Hummus makes a delicious dip for veggies or crackers and can be used as a substitute for mayonnaise on sandwiches and wraps.  Can be frozen.

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
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Simply Saving Saturday

We continued to save in simple ways:

**Husband took lunch to work every day. (ongoing)

**Turned lights off when not being used. (ongoing)

**Used cash to buy groceries. (ongoing)

**Kept the thermostat at 67 during the day and 62 at night. (ongoing)

**Ate oatmeal many times this week instead of cereal and made Baked Oatmeal Cups.

**Earned $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks.

**Borrowed books and a DVD from the library and also found a few coupons that I could use.

**Used a coupon for more free relish (this will be so nice to have this summer!).

**Cut older son's hair.

**Used a gift card and had a nice date with hubby.

But not everything went exactly as planned:

**I got some bulk spices thinking that it would be a less expensive way to buy spices, only to discover that some of them were actually more expensive to buy this way. 

On a positive note:  instead of buying spice jars, I reused jars to store them in and made labels using tags I already had on hand.

**We took the boys to the Maine Discovery Museum.  The cost of gas (4-hour round trip), the museum fee and a meal makes this a fairly expensive family activity.  To help with the cost, we brought our own snacks and drinks for the car ride and planned on using a gift card we were given at Christmas to pay for lunch.  After eating lunch (and splurging on dessert!), we discovered that we were not able to use the gift card and had to pay for the meal. 

On a positive note:  our family had a wonderful day together and it was worth far more than the money we spent!

Simple Jar Labels

The jelly, pickle and nutella jars I had been saving were perfect for storing my bulk spices, but I also needed to find the perfect labels.  I didn't want a permanent label in case I wanted to reuse the jars and I didn't want to put a label on the lid where it would have been hard to see.

These Avery tags that I used for a yard sale last summer were the perfect solution!  They made really simple, inexpensive labels that are easy to remove and can easily be seen when I open the kitchen cabinet.

I removed the string from the tags and used a ball point pen to outline the tags and label them.  Then I used the string to attach them to the jars.  Yarn, twine or raffia could also be used to attach the tags to the jars.

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How I Earned 71 Swag Bucks Today + 120 Swag Bucks For New Members

I love earning Swagbucks and redeeming them for Amazon gift cards.   Here's how I earned 71 Swag Bucks today!

Toolbar - 1
Daily Poll - 1
NOSO - 2
SBTV - 3
Search - 27
Games - 10
Inbox - 22
Special Offers (videos) - 5

This month Swagbucks is turning 5!  To celebrate their birthday, Swagbucks is giving new members an extra 90 Swag Bucks for a total of 120 Swag Bucks just for signing up with code 5THBIRTHDAY.  This offer expires on February 28.

Simply Saving Saturday

**My grocery spending was a little over budget this week since I wanted to make a special Valentine's Day dinner for my husband.  I made his favorite Beef Tips With Mushrooms and tried this Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Pie for dessert (amazing!) and splurged on a bottle of sparkling cider. 

Even though this wasn't the cheapest meal I have ever made, it was still much less expensive than having a meal at a restaurant. 

**I packed my son's lunch in plastic containers and used very few sandwich bags this week.

**My son made his 100 Days of School project out of legos that he had.

**The school sends home a lot of  information about school and community special events as well as notes from my son's teacher.  I've been using the back of that paper to make lists and for notes.

**I used the turkey stock I made last week and made Turkey Noodle Soup with heart carrots.  It did seem to be a little wasteful to make the hearts, but instead of throwing all the scraps and shavings away I put them in the freezer and will use them in my next batch of chicken stock.

**Found some coupons that I could use in the coupon exchange box at the library and also dropped some coupons off for others to use.

**Used coupons for free paper towels, relish, soap and other personal care items.

**Purchased bread for $1 at the bread store.

**Made smoothies with cherries that had gotten lost in the freezer and some berries and yogurt in the fridge that needed to be eaten.

Recipe: Chocolate-Dipped Chocolate Chip Heart Cookies

My husband loves chocolate chip cookies and I thought it would be fun to surprise him with chocolate chip Valentine cookies. 

This shortbread-like dough works well in place of traditional chocolate chip cookie dough which is too soft to make shaped cookies. 

Chocolate-Dipped Chocolate Chip Heart Cookies

Makes: approx. 4 dozen 2" cookies
Make ahead: Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup (12 oz.) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips (optional)
1 tbs. shortening

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and salt until creamy.  Beat in egg yolk and gradually add flour.  Stir in 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. 

2.  Divide dough in half, cover and chill for at least 1 hour.  If the dough is too hard for rolling and crumbly after chilling, work it in your hands until softened and smooth.

3.  Put half of dough between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out to 1/4- inch thickness.  Cut out hearts with a cookie cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough.

4.  Bake for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown.  After the cookies have cooled on the baking sheets, move to wire racks to cool completely.

Tip:  For soft cookies, watch the cookies carefully while they are baking and remove them from the oven as soon as the tops are set and the bottoms turn light golden brown.

5.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt milk chocolate chips (or remaining mini chips) and 1 tbs. of shortening in the microwave for 1 minute.  Stir and continue to heat at 10 second intervals if needed until chocolate is smooth. 
6.  Dip one half of cookie in the chocolate and scrape the bottom of the cookie across the edge of the bowl to remove the excess chocolate.  Place cookies on wax paper until chocolate has hardened.

Adapted from Very Best Baking
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You might also like: Heart-Shaped Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Simply Saving Saturday

**My car was finally fixed on Thursday and it wasn't nearly as expensive to as we had feared!  After a week without a vehicle we saved some money in gas, but I have a major case of "cabin fever" and a new respect for moms who live in a one car family!

**I bought an 8 lb. pork loin that was on sale for $1.99/lb.  I honestly had no idea what to do with such a huge piece of meat, but I was getting very tired of chicken and was desparate to add some variety to our meals.

I found a wonderful video online that showed me how to cut it into a roast, thick and thin pork chops and cubes for stir fry and sweet and sour pork.  Most of the meat went in the freezer.  We have enough pork for at least 10 meals for our family of 4 with lots of leftovers for lunches.  It was a nice change from the chicken meals we've been eating and a great deal! 

**My husband and I had a free meal at his annual employee appreciation dinner.  It was delicious and I enjoyed a break from the kitchen.

**I am starting to notice some small savings by making our breakfast instead of grabbing a box of cereal in the morning.  This week I bought 2 boxes of cereal instead of the 4 that I normally buy and we ate oatmeal several times this week instead.  I saved about $4.00 (probably closer to $4.50) this week which would be a yearly savings of a little over $200 per year! 

**We made our own valentines for my son's first grade class using things we had on hand instead of buying them.  I did buy some candy from the dollar store to put in the valentines.

**I used the $1 Olay coupon from the P&G coupon insert to get free soap at Dollar Tree. 

**I used bread end-slices from the freezer to make homemade stuffing. The difference between store bought stuffing and homemade was shocking. I don't think I will ever buy a box of stuffing again!

**I cooked the extra turkey that I bought during the Thanksgiving sales ($.49/lb.) and made turkey broth with the bones.  We will have lots of turkey meals on next week's menu.  Some of our favorites are Turkey Noodle Soup, Turkey Pot Pie, Turkey Tetrazzini and turkey sandwiches for lunch.

Candy-Filled Paper Heart Valentines

My first-grader and I made these candy-filled valentine hearts for the valentine's exchange at school.  They are very simple to make with items that you probably already have on hand.

You will need: construction paper, heart-shaped template, paper punch, yarn, yarn needle, stickers and candy.

Cut hearts out of construction paper and use the paper punch to punch holes around the edges. 

 With the yarn needle and yarn, whipstitch two hearts together leaving a 4 to 5 inch tail at both ends.  Leave the top center hole open.

After the hearts are sewn together, names can be written on the valentines and stickers or other decorations can be added.

 Slide candy into the hearts and then insert the tails through the top center hole from back to front and tie a bow.

You might also want to try:

Shoe Boxes For Boys: Crochet, Knit, Sew Hand Puppets

Welcome to the Shoe Boxes for Boys series. This year I am focusing on packing boxes for boys after reading a comment on this post about the need for more boxes for boys (especially 10-14 year olds). If you are packing Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes this year, I hope you will discover new ideas and also share your ideas!
Update 10/25/15: I have updated the Crochet Monkey Puppet pattern with a new link to the pattern.

Hand puppets are a great gift to include in Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.  They fit really well in a shoe box; they can be rolled up or laid flat in the bottom of the box.  Here are some of my favorite free hand puppet patterns:


Washcloth hand puppets are also a great project to include in your Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. You can find instructions (including a free pattern) and a great video on

Posts in this series:

For more free patterns and ideas, visit my OCC Pinterest Board.

Note: The information shared in this series will follow the OCC-US regulations. When packing shoe boxes from other countries, please refer to the rules and regulations from that country as they do vary from country to country. Thank you!
Operation Christmas Child Australia
Operation Christmas Child UK

Simply Saving Saturday

--This week did not look like it was going to be a good savings week when one of our vehicles broke down and I was stranded at the Post Office....

     The good news is thanks to my mom who gives us a AAA subscription every year for Christmas, we were able to tow the car for free. 

     The other good news is that since we have been a one car family this week we are saving a lot of money in gas.

     The bad news: we're not sure how much the repairs are going to cost, but it will probably be expensive.

     More good news: we have an emergency fund that we will use to pay cash for the repairs and will allow us to stay out of debt (besides the mortgage).

--This week we were so thankful for the very nice dining room table and chairs that were given to us.

--About a year ago we switched to a different electric supplier for a better rate.  We just received a notice from them that our rate has dropped this year. It's only a small amount, but every little bit helps!

--Made a double batch of apple oatmeal muffins with apples that were getting soft. 

--Made granola cereal and instant oatmeal packets.

--Cut younger son's hair.

--Received free Glade Expressions Diffuser and Spray from BzzAgent.

--Received a free razor and refill from BzzAgent.

--Saving jelly jars and spaghetti sauce jars for the garden and other uses.

How were you able to save this week?

Hope For Parents Of Picky Eaters

It was quite a shock to discover that our younger son was a picky eater.  There were days when I worried that he wasn't getting the nutrition he needed, days I just wanted to throw my hands in the air and give up and days I gave in to his less than nutritious diet.

If your child only eats hot dogs and chicken nuggets and you are feeling discouraged, let me encourage you that there is hope!  We are starting to see some small, encouraging changes in our son's eating habits.  Here are a few things we have done to encourage our son to eat a better variety of foods:

One Meal.  I never prepare a separate meal for our picky eater; instead, I always make sure that each meal includes at least one or two things that he likes to eat.  This way, I'm not encouraging him to continue eating only the things he wants by making him a separate meal.

Dinner Buffet.  I have always prepared my children's plates for them at dinner, but in his book, Have A New Kid by Friday, Dr. Kevin Leman suggests putting the food out, passing the food and letting children fill their own plates. 

Several weeks ago our small group enjoyed a potluck dinner together.  Despite Dr. Lehman's advice, I was shocked when my son looked over all the food on the table and we had this conversation:

"Mom, what's that?"

"That's coleslaw."

"Oh, I want to try that, Mom."

It was the first time our 4-year old had ever asked to try something!  And while I refrained from doing a happy dance right there in the middle of the crowded kitchen, I remembered Dr. Lehman's advice and determined to allow my children to experience more food on their own.

The One Bite Rule.  Many times our children have told us they don't like something just because of the way it looks.  We have gotten into the habit of asking our children to try at least one bite of any food that they don't think they like.  We always reassure them that they don't have to like everything that they try and they don't have to finish eating any food that they don't like.

I realize that this may be a bit controversial.  But we have seen some wonderful changes in our picky eater's diet that I directly attribute to this.  Our son is no longer afraid to try new things!  This child who had a very limited diet, has asked to try black olives, beans and pickles in the last few weeks.

No Whining/Complaining Allowed.  Our youngest son complained about his dinner even before we sat down to eat and it would continue to escalate until his older brother was complaining along with him.  For a long time I associated his complaining with being a picky eater. 

Finally a light bulb went off in my head and I asked myself why I was allowing him--giving him an excuse actually--to complain when it allows him to focus on all the things he doesn't like.  Don't allow your picky eater to complain! 

Instead point out the foods that he does like.  We have also reminded him about the one bite rule and if there is anything he doesn't like he doesn't have to finish it.  We are also teaching both of our children that whining and complaining is just plain bad manners.  We still get some complaints, but generally mealtime has been much more enjoyable for our whole family.

The Power of Distraction.  A note from our older son's teacher said that children should know their 0-10 addition and subtraction facts as they go into 2nd grade.  So one night we practiced by quizzing each other during dinner and even our younger son got involved in the fun. 

This went on for about 10-15 minutes and when I looked over at our son's dish he had completely eaten his dinner (including the potatoes that he usually won't eat without a healthy dose of ketchup) without one word of complaint!  It was definitely an "aha" moment for me.  I have also read that reading to children during meal time also works well as a distraction.

What are your tips for parents of picky eaters?

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