Friday, May 29, 2015

How to One-Up Boxed Mix Brownies


Now I will be the first to say I love….no LOVEEEEEE brownies. Though I cannot eat them everyday, I do enjoy them and when I do make them I also love to one-up the boxed mixed and get my full fill of chocolate.

During this month I have some of those "ugh" kind of days and needed a pick me up of chocolate goodness. And with the handy help of my son I was able to make the best batch of deliciousness. 

How to One-Up Boxed Mixed Brownies (aka Cooking with Kids)


Brownie Boxed Mix (I used Betty Crocker Supreme Brownie Mix Original with Hershey’s syrup pouch)
*Egg (per box instructions)
*Oil (per box instructions)
*Water (per box instructions)
Real Milk Chocolate Morsels (I used Toll House Milk Chocolate Morsels)

Measuring cups for liquids
Measuring cup for morsels (1 cup)
Stand Mixer
20x 20 glass Baking dish

First, of course, if you have helpers make sure all hands are washed.

For the beginning you will follow the box directions regarding pre-heating the oven and the measurements of the required ingredients.

Combine the water, egg and oil in your stand mixer, and mix this well.  Next add the powdered brownie mix from the box.

Make sure to stop and give your helps a chance to push down any dry ingredients..

While mixing,  get ready the morsels (that is, feel free to sneak a few when no one is looking.)

Add 1 cup of chocolate morsels and mix again.

This next step is purely optional!!

You can add the Hershey syrup that came with the box, as you can see I only added a little since we are putting in morsels.

Mix Well.

Once this is done take your dish you can do one of 2 options to grease the pan:

The cleaner way is to spray pan or some non-stick spray into the dish and then pour goodness inside.

The DIRTY WAY aka fun for kids

Take a little bit of butter and use your fingers to spread in the entire dish.

If you are using glass as we did, you may find some areas will not hold the butter so then you would use some mommy or daddy power and sprinkle a little all purpose flour into the dish to give the butter something to hold onto.

Now that that is done, pour the chocolatey  goodness inside.

Level it out by shaking it lightly to each side.

Into the oven it goes but this is where things change up again. The box says to bake 34 to 35 minutes at 350F. This all depends on the humidity and oven used!!

I am using a gas stove, so I like to start off  15 minutes and then check using a butter knife and stick in the middle if when pulled out, it's covered you need more time. Since there are chocolate morsels if by chance your test knife is in the middle of a few of those there will be syrup on the knife. What you are checking for is batter.  For this time I use a cool total of 30 minutes!! (I live in an extremely low-humidity environment, so it may take yours longer.)

Allow to cool if you can then serve with ice cream or nice cool glass of milk. ENJOY!! Let me know how yours taste and if you liked the one up method.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Awesome Life Friday #21 (and a Giveaway!)

It's Awesome Life Friday time!  We can't wait to have you join the party and share your blog posts with us!

Before we begin, we have some exciting news - a few weeks ago, Daniel did a review of Button-Up-a-Month, a subscription service that sends out one button-up shirt a month to its members.  We offered a great giveaway then, and we get to do it again - just in time for Father's Day!  Once again, FIVE winners in the US will be receiving a three month membership to Button Up a Month, so check out the review and then enter to win!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 6/11/15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Here's what else we've been up to this past week:

Bree shares three delightful homemade seasoning blends sure to become the stars of your pantry.

Finding the personal trainer that meets your specific needs is important - Vanessa helps you figure out what to look for, and shares why being a personal trainer is her calling. 

Vanessa also explains what the Paleo Diet is, and explores how these energy bars can fit into the paleo lifestyle.  We've got a Giveaway, too!

Finally, Amber checked out this ingenious light up cell phone case which tackles the problem of bad lighting when taking selfies.

Now, let's take a look at this week's Featured posts - boy, you all sure do make it difficult to choose, but I think we've got some great selections here.  If you're one of our Featured bloggers, please feel free to grab a button!

Children's Art History Books to Really Get Excited About! (Syncopated Mama)

Sidewalk Chalk Fun: 40+ Games & Activities (Sweet Little Ones)

23 Ways a Military Man Says "I Love You" (The Art of "Why Not?")

Lemon Coconut Pound Cake (Grammie Time)

I hope you'll go check these out, along with a few entries from this week's link up!

Here we go!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lumee Cell Phone Case

Have you ever wanted to take a Selfie at night and of course couldn't see your own face? Or taken a picture and the lighting just didn't turn out so good? Well Lumee is a light up cell phone case that is designed for that exact purpose! 

Whether you need to put on your makeup and get better lighting, add a little light to your Facetime or Skype sessions, or take brighter selfies, this product is what you want. 

I have a Samsung Galaxy S5 and this case fit snug onto my phone. The Lumee appears like a Vanity mirror - the lights are all on the edges of the mirror. 

Operating the device is amazingly easy!! There is one button on the back of the case, you press and the lights come on. If you want a dimmer light, all you need to do is hold the button down to the desired lighting. 

I will say that on the highest setting, wow, it is bright! Almost blinding if you are not expecting it! This product uses warm LED lights so you do not have to worry about the case or lights heating up around your phone. I was worried about that but after some research on the company's website, my worry was put to ease!

My package included the Lumee Case and a charger. SCORE! The charger also works with my cell phone so that was an added bonus! 

When I received, I found it was completely charged already. I tested the battery by leaving the case lights on for over 2 hours and it stayed bright and lit! 

My only complaint with the product and it was more of a personal preference, was removing the product from my phone. The instructions advise you to press the edges of the case down and your phone would pop out... well it was a little harder for me to do then I expected and I felt as though I might damage my phone or the case. It did not happen but you do need a little bit of strength to remove it. 

I tested this product in many different aspects. I took pictures in complete darkness with and without using the lights, I dropped the case to check durability (not a single dent, scratch or mark on the case or my phone), I used as a flashlight (worked better than most apps you can download) and took pictures during regular lighting just to see the difference. 

Overall, this product would be an amazing gift to someone who loves taking pictures of themselves and who spends time doing Skype/Facetime sessions. I took this along on a recent vacation and most of the girls fell in love with it. Look out Lumee, you may a few more orders coming in shortly! 

I appreciate Lumee letting me review this product and look forward to seeing what upgrades and new products they come up with in the future. I think this is an amazing idea and a great product.

The case is designed to fit on iPhone 5/5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6+ and Samsung Galaxy s5 cases. They are available for purchase in Black, White, Periwinkle (which is was what I received), Orchid and Nantucket Red for $44.95 at

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kitchen DIY: Fajita, Cajun & Steak Seasoning Blends


I love making stuff at home, especially in the kitchen! And saving money is not the only thing I love about it. I love how much more fresh everything tastes, and the aromas that happen as whatever you're creating comes together; it makes me feel very old fashioned in a way.

But the part I love the most by far is how much healthier everything is when you make seasonings from scratch. No preservatives, or MSG, or anti-caking agents. When you see how simply and accurately your homemade version can happen, you really start wondering what all the other junk in the store bought version is for. And something special happens.You begin to feel really powerful in the kitchen knowing that simple, real ingredients can be made into something new.

That realization can be a huge step towards a healthier kitchen and a healthier you!

If scratch or homemade seasoning blends sound totally scary and foreign to you, don't fear. Seasoning mixes are harmless and a perfect place to start your homemaking adventures. They are so incredibly easy, that you'll wonder why you ever put on shoes and ventured out for store bought mixes.

Here are a few to get you started! These are perfect for summer grilling, but keep them on hand year-round, because they're marvelous for all sorts of things.

First into the kitchen...

Fajita Seasoning
aka Taco Seasoning

I love love love this recipe! I use it for so many things, from making the authentic pupusas my Salvadorean husband adores, to searing up some finger licking chicken thighs or flavoring ground beef for tacos. Once you smell this cooking on a pan with ground beef your mouth will water and you'll wonder why you ever bought a packet of the "real" stuff.

In my opinion, fajita seasoning pairs best with foods and cooking processes that will meet a lot of direct heat. Sauteing or searing brings out the flavors in this mix the way no other cooking method can.

Spices & Herbs You'll Need
4 tbsp Chili Powder
2 tbsp Sea Salt
2 tbsp Paprika
1 tbsp Onion Powder
1 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Powder

Easy. Put all spices into a small mason jar or airtight container and shake well. Store in container until ready to use.

Now go make a delicious taco spread for dinner tonight!

Up Next...

Cajun Seasoning

Now to be totally honest, this is not a recipe that sees the light of day much in my kitchen... Cajun is just generally not my thing. But when I've got a taste for fried rice, and the typical ginger and soy flavors aren't calling me, I'll grab this mix and make Cajun fried rice with shrimp.

I love this seasoning mix for shaking things up, and getting out of a cooking rut. It's delicious on any sea food, and of course, rice. A little olive oil, water and vinegar turn this into the perfect marinade for not-another-boring chicken breast.

Herbs & Spices You'll Need
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Paprika
¼ tsp Sea Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
¼ tsp Oregano

1. Easy. Again. Put all spices into a small mason jar or airtight container and shake well. Store in container until ready to use.

Last, but certainly not least...

Steak Seasoning Mix

Oh shall I compare thee to a perfectly cooked steak? No, seriously, who doesn't love steak? (Ok, you got me on that one, vegetarians, but that's not the point!)

I certainly love a perfectly cooked cut of steak, and if that's on the menu for dinner, my husband is NOT complaining either. But there's little worse than having a beautiful hunk o' meat standing in front of you, and no good way of seasoning it.

Now I know chef's and foodies get all haughty with their salt and pepper steak, and I know first hand how wonderfully amazing a plain, grass-fed cut can be, left naked in all it's glory... but there is just something magical about juicy, delicious perfectly seasoned beef.

I've tried probably over 20 steak seasonings and marinades, literally, but nothing compares to the simplicity and undeniable tastiness of this one. And steak is not the limit! This seasoning mix is delicious on pork as well.

Herbs and Spices You'll Need
2 tbsp Sea Salt*
1 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Onion Powder
1 tbsp Black Pepper
½ tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
½ tbsp Thyme
½ tbsp Rosemary
½ tbsp Coriander

1. Bring all spices and herbs together with a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or small blender to make a uniform mixture. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
2. Use mixture as a dry rub on beef or pork. Or use it to create a marinade:

Steak Marinade
You'll Need
¼ cup Olive Oil
¼ cup Water
1 tbsp Vinegar
2 tbsp Steak Seasoning Mix

1. Emulsify in a blender (for best results) or whisk together.
2. Add meat and marinade to a zip top bag or glass dish.
3. Allow the two to become acquainted for at least 1 hour before cooking.

*Note: The salt in this recipe is a lot lower than ones you may be used to. You'll want to salt and pepper the top and bottom of your meat just prior to cooking for grade A results.

Now go cook something! I hope I've inspired you to get creative, and turn old boring kitchen staples into something new. Now go forth and be the king (or queen) of your kitchen!



Epic Mommy Adventures


Monday, May 25, 2015

Review/Giveaway: The Paleo Diet Bar


I’m a research kinda girl. My family and friends will ask what product I would suggest for their needs because they know I’ve already done the research on it. The Paleo Diet Bar was my first assignment with Reviews, Chews and How Tos, so I wanted to make sure I read everything about it.

I began my research with their website. Here’s what I found -  

“The Paleo Diet Bar is a gluten free, grain free, soy free, dairy free, fiber-rich, and protein-rich, preservative free optimal nutrition bar for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Powered by rich-protein sources containing all 9 essential amino acids, we combine the finest all-natural ingredients to strike the tastiest balance without compromising nutritional value. The Paleo Diet Bar is exclusively endorsed by Dr. Loren Cordain, the world’s leading expert and founder of the Paleolithic movement.”

The Paleo Diet Bar from Paleo Braaap, LLC is a husband/wife owned company (Shauna and Todd Sledge) launched in Fort Collins, CO October 2013. Shauna and Todd both live an active, healthy lifestyle and have 3 kids.

I grew up in Colorado, it’s a very active and health conscious state. Some great products come from the active Colorado residents. I was excited to try out a product from my home state.

I personally do not follow a paleo diet but appreciate that it encourages a non-processed diet.

I am a very active individual. I lead a free Momma and Kiddo workout class every morning, run with a stroller as my mode of travel, and keep up with a toddler’s perspective on life.

I make sure to always have healthy snacks for us while traveling and enjoying our daily outdoor adventures. I’m always on the look out for new products that support our active and healthy lifestyle -  and let’s face it, toddlers are picky. You have to present new options often. 

To test the effectiveness of the bar I wanted to focus on pre-workout and post-workout. I tried the Cinnamon Raisin Bar as a breakfast replacement before leading a PiYo workout class. I was full and did not feel like I needed anything besides water. The bar gave me plenty of energy to start my day and lead the workout. It was easy to grab the bar and have it for breakfast instead of my normal breakfast routine.

I had the Cranberry Almond Bar after leading a kickboxing workout. I’m always hungry after a morning of running around and then leading an hour workout. The bar filled me up! I’m usually reaching for a few things for lunch. Not with this bar though, it is filling.

So let’s break down this bar now that I experienced it. The Paleo Diet Bar can be used as a meal replacement or post workout recovery snack.

I personally do not follow a Paleo Diet and wanted more information about what it is, and to make sure this bar fell into the Paleo Diet guidelines. I did a Google search and came across the leader of the Paleo movement. Dr. Loren Cordian is the leader of the Paleo movement and has trademarked “The Paleo Diet”. In order for Shauna and Todd to use the name “The Paleo Diet Bar” it had to be endorsed by Dr. Cordian.

Shauna first met Dr. Cordian as her dental hygienist patient and received his support in creating The Paleo Diet Bar (I learned all of this from a YouTube video Shauna made).

Dr. Cordain's guidelines for what constitutes the Paleo Diet are the following:

What to Eat:
    Grass-produced meats
    Fresh fruits and veggies
    Nuts and seeds
    Healthful oils (Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)”

What to not eat:
    Cereal grains
    Legumes (including peanuts)
    Refined sugar
    Processed foods
    Refined vegetable oils”

I like to check more than one source so I looked at what Wikipedia had to say: “The paleolithic diet, also known as the paleo diet or caveman diet, is a diet based on the food humans' ancient ancestors might likely have eaten, such as meat, nuts and berries.”

Like me, you may be thinking: "well aren’t bars processed, packaged foods?" The Paleo Diet Bar follows the guidelines to the Paleo Diet according to Dr. Cordian.

I looked at every aspect of this product and here’s what I found:

The Paleo Diet Bar currently comes in two flavors: Cranberry Almond and Cinnamon Raisin

The ingredients (this is what I always want to know about food products, this is where the truth comes out):

Cranberry Almond:
 Dates, Almonds, Egg White Protein Powder, Apple Fiber, Sunflower Seeds, Dried Cranberries (Cranberries, Apple Juice Concentrate), Hemp Protein Powder, Strawberry Juice Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Water, Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon.

Cinnamon Raisin: Dates, Egg White Protein Powder, Sunflower Seeds, Almonds, Raisins, Apple Fiber, Hemp Protein Powder, Sesame Seeds, Coconut Oil, Water, Cinnamon, Vanilla Extract.

This is the first product I had seen use Egg White Protein Powder. You usually see whey protein. Whey is derived from milk, which would be considered a dairy product and not allowed in the Paleo Diet.

I know the texture and taste are important factors in choosing a bar, I have consumed many different bars over the years of being active and on the go. The Paleo Diet Bar has a similar texture and shape to the Lara Bar, but is much larger. The bar is not greasy or sticky in your hand, and is very dense.

Cranberry Almond - was sweeter and I enjoyed the taste more than the Cinnamon Raisin. It tasted like most protein bars do. The bar definitely fills you up. Some bars may have you reaching for a few, but not this one with 17g of protein

Cinnamon Raisin - the ingredient I tasted most was the cinnamon. This flavor did not taste overly sweet.

The label - I compared it to a Lara Bar:
If you are looking for protein (17g) this bar has 4 times the amount of protein compared to a Lara Bar.
It has a lot of sugar (22g) but so do other bars with fruit and dates.
There is 7g of fiber while the Lara Bar has 5g.
Comparing calories the Paleo Diet Bar has 310 and Lara Bars have 200-250. 

How much you would be spending:
The Paleo Diet Bar Sampler Pack includes one Cinnamon Raisin and one Cranberry Almond bar for $8.50 with free shipping. This comes to about $4.25 a bar. 

A 12 pack of the flavor of your choice with taxes and shipping (to California) = $57.34.This comes to about $4.78 per bar.

On Amazon, Cranberry Almond retails for $50.98 including shipping and usually ships within 6-10 days.
Cinnamon Raisin retails for $43.55 with free shipping and usually ships within 2-3 days.

When you purchase an item from Amazon, the prices and shipping continually are changing. Depending on time you may be able to get a better deal and the Paleo Diet Bar website offers a buy from Amazon button. Per bar when sold online (I’m not near a store I can purchase one from) is more expensive than other options on the market.

The Paleo Diet Bar was featured on Shark Tank - Shauna presented The Paleo Diet Bar to the Sharks on May 1st (Season 6 episode 27). One Shark thought it tasted good and much better than the other “protein bars he was eating”. The female shark, Lori did not like the taste. Another asked why so much sugar? Shauna explained that the fruit ingredients accounted for the sugar content. When asked what it takes to produce a bar, she answered $1.09 and said they retail for $2.99 in stores.

Looking over Amazon reviews, I noticed some of the same pros and cons I experienced - the Paleo Diet Bars make for a great meal replacement option, satisfy your hunger and are high in protein.  Some felt they were too sweet, stuck to your teeth and in some cases they didn't care for the taste.

You don’t always get the opportunity to speak with a company on the phone and have all your questions answers, so it was awesome that Shauna took the time to call me. 

Here's what I asked her:

What about the egg white powder, isn’t that a dairy product?  
“Dairy products are just milk products from cows or other milk producers.”

How is the egg white powder made?  
“The egg white is separated from the yolk and dried.”

Where do you get your ingredients from?  
“Mostly the U.S .and a few are international, for example coconut oil.”

Are any of the ingredients organic?  
“No. The priority was the gluten free label. As the company grows the goal is to pay for the organic label.”

What is the shelf life of a bar?
“One year.”

Is this bar considered a diet product for weight loss? 
“It can be used as a diet product because it can be a meal replacement. Or it can be used as a workout recovery snack.”

I hope I covered every question you might have about The Paleo Diet Bar. While I do not personally follow a Paleo Diet, I am sure that if you follow a Paleo Diet and are in the Crossfit community this should work for you.

Shauna is very driven and passionate about her product. If you’re looking to support someone who truly stands behind their product, she’s your gal. They also have two new flavors coming soon - Cherry Apple Walnut and Blueberry Pear Pecan.

Meanwhile, read on for your chance to win a Paleo Diet Bar Sampler Pack!


The Paleo Diet Bar is giving away one of their Sampler Packs (containing 1 bar of each of the current flavors) to 5 different winners in the US! 

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 6-8-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Personal Trainer


There are a lot of personal trainers out there. You do not need to settle with the first one you meet. Each personal trainer has a niche and specialty. Do your research, ask tons of questions, and listen to your gut when it comes to who feels right.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself before choosing a personal trainer:

- Why do you want a personal trainer?
- What are you wanting to achieve?
- Do you need someone that is modeling what you want to create?
- Are you looking for accountability?
- What support do you need from your personal trainer?

When you work with a personal trainer you are not only exposing your vulnerability to them, you are asking for help. It is okay if you decide someone it not the right fit for you. This is your journey, your life. 

When you choose the right personal trainer, you have chosen someone that will believe in you during times when you do not believe in yourself. Your trainer has belief and can visualize you reaching all your goals before you realize that you are.

This video by Diamond Dallas Page explains why I am a personal trainer:

There are some questionable trainers out there, just like in any field, so pick the personal trainer that gives you that gut feeling that they are the right fit for you.

 In good health, 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Awesome Life Friday #20 (Link Up)

It's Awesome Life Friday time!  We can't wait to have you join the party and share your blog posts with us! Before we share a few Featured Posts from last week's party, here's a look at what we've been up to this week:

Michael introduces us to Minnesota Singer/Songwriter Peter Mayer and his latest album, Third Street.

Ashley brings us a review of Snapdolls - fabric paper dolls with changeable outfits that can be attached to a t-shirt or bag - and we've got a great giveaway of a SnapDoll messenger bag with a doll and 3 outfits!

Amber pulls together a blend of veggies with Bacon, garlic and Parmesan Cheese for a side dish that's sure to please.

Bree went all out sharing with us her experiences with Garlic Gold products and offers two great recipes!  We're giving away a Garlic Gold Gift Box, so don't forget to enter!

Lynda is beginning a new journey toward a better relationship with her body, following the Mind-Body-Spirit centered guidance of Personal Trainer Vanessa Hartman.  This is the beginning of a series that will continue into September.

Seeing what you've been up to also makes our week awesome!  Here are a few that really inspired us - if you've been featured, you're welcome to grab a button! 

I hope you'll go check these out, along with a few entries from this week's link up!

Here we go!