Homemade Mac & Cheese

I'm not a huge fan of mac and cheese but this stuff is really good. I have made it many times and the last few times I have been tweaking it.

This is the basic recipe:

2 cups dried pasta
2½ cups milk
1 cup shredded cheese
4 oz. cream cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

In a small saucepan, add pasta and milk. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, until pasta is soft, stirring frequently and ensuring milk does not boil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Turn heat off, add cheese, salt and stir to combine. Stir in the mustard a little at a time to taste. Cover and let stand for about 5 minutes, then stir again and serve. If not creamy enough, add milk a little at a time, and gently stir. If you would like to bake it at this point, place in a baking dish and top with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Bake for approximately 10 minutes until cheese has melted.

NOTE: I never bake it in the oven and I also don't turn off the heat when adding the cheese, I just turn it down.

Tweak 1: I added 6 oz of cream cheese instead of 4. Good but almost too creamy.
Tweak 2: I have started doing a heaping tsp of mustard. I do the regular amounts of everything but I have added two oz of Velveeta cheese. It gave a little more of a cheesy flavor and added nice texture.

Shake 'N Bake Steak Fries

We decided we wanted to try a new twist on steak fries, so this time we cut up the potatoes and tossed it in Ranch & Herb Shake 'N Bake. We then baked it at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until tender. They were really good.

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

This is meat is delicious! We've made this with chicken and pork, I prefered the chicken but both were really good. The recipe came from Chocolate Therapy and is very simple. Dump the meat, 1 oz taco seasoning, and 16 oz salsa in the crockpot then give it a stir. We cooked it for 6 to 8 hours on low. After it was done it go shredded and put back in the crockpot and stirred up. It made leftovers that were just as good the second or third day as it was the first.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

I really like taco seasoning but it always seems to give me indigestion. I found this homemade taco seasoning on pinterest and decided to give it a try. Super easy to make and NO indigestion!

6 T. chili powder
9 tsp. ground cumin
6 tsp. fine sea salt
6 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tsp. smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar

In a small bowl, stir all ingredients together until well-combined. Store in an air-tight container. Makes 5.2oz.

Kroger 10 Minute Skillet Meals

I got another BzzKit!! I really like receiving these kits, it open up new products for me to try. For those who don't know what BzzAgent is, you create an account and do a bunch of surveys. The results from the surveys are then used to pair you up with a Bzz Campaign, for some it takes a while to actually be paired up with a campaign.
For my campaign I received coupons for the Kroger 10 Minute Skillet Meal, a salad kit and a loaf of Kroger garlic bread. The skillet meal and the garlic bread are both located in the freezer section. There are many choices for the skillet meal, a lot had peppers in them, peppers fresh are fine but not so much frozen. With this being the case I chose the Chicken Florentine. You simply open the bag, dump it in a pan and cook it for 10 minutes. You don't have to add anything to it!
For the salad kit my Smith's had a few options and I chose the house salad with bacon. It comes with really crisp lettuce, ranch salad dressing, garlic croutons and bacon bits. I was afraid there wasn't going to be enough salad dressing but we found it to be the perfect amount.
The garlic bread I finally found at Fred Meyers, it is located in with the Texas Toast type breads. It was good but for us we wanted it to be more garlicky. It simply goes in the oven for 10 minutes.

All-in-all we were really impressed with this meal. The only drawback we found was the meal is 3.5 servings but costs $5.something almost $6 a bag it was a bit expensive for our taste but with the free coupon it was definitely fun to try something new.

All opinions written in this post are mine and I haven't been bribed to give a positive or negative feedback.

Crockpot Applesauce

I really like applesauce and I love to try new recipes; I saw this recipe for applesauce in the crockpot a few weeks ago on Thrift Decor Chick (TDC). We just picked the apples off our trees a few days ago and thought this was the perfect way to use some of them up.
I used 9 honey crisp apples; peeled, cored and sliced. They were then dumped into the crock-pot on top of the apples put the sugar and cinnamon. I used a 1/3 of a cup of sugar since TDC used a 1/2 cup but thought less would be better. As far as cinnamon goes I didn't measure I just dumped some in, I thought it was good but the rest of the family would like less cinnamon. It cooked on high for 4 hours. It was really good warm but we all preferred it after it had cooled in the fridge. I did take a potato masher to it to make it smaller pieces; I also added some more sugar.

This was a delicious way to use up some of our apples. Can't wait to try it again and mess around with the spices.

Bzz Agent: Free Friday Download

Free Friday Download is a neat system that allows you to go on every Friday and download a coupon to be used at a Kroger retailer. The coupon is loaded right on to your rewards card so you don't have to remember to grab your coupon. The only thing that I have ran into, I am always forgetting to go on and look at that week's coupon. It is definitely something that I am going to try and check more in the future.

All opinions written in this post are mine and I haven't been bribed to give a positive or negative feedback.

Luck of the Draw By: Rachael Renee Anderson

This is your usual romance; rocky beginning, a few tough trials but still they all live happily ever after. One of the main reasons I really liked this book was because I go to school in Rexburg and I am from Shelley (same as the roommate Kevin). The other reason is the huge resemblance to my FHE brothers this past semester. The 'Brighton' of them is also looking at UVU for medical school on his off track and would find huge joy in dating girls without others knowing. Overall it was a fun, quick book.

Luck of the Draw

When Brighton's roommates bet him that he can't get three girls to go out with him at the same time, he has no doubt that he's up to the challenge. Besides, the prospect of an entire month of free laundry is just too enticing to resist. Of course, that's before he meets Dani--a girl who's never had a problem turning down a not-so-perfect guy. Soon Brighton realizes that winning the bet might mean losing what really matters most. This fast-paced modern romance is told with wit, sweetness, and a healthy dose of fun. It's a sure bet that Luck of the Draw will keep you laughing to the very last page.

DIY: Nail Stickers

I can't draw whatsoever but especially not with my left hand. I found this PIN on pinterest and couldn't help but try it out. While looking into it a bit more I ran into this POST that found parchment paper to work the best.

To give them all a fair chance, I used parchment paper, a ziplock bag and the tin foil from the backside of my parchment paper. I did two on each sheet, one had a top coat before the design and the second was only the design. In the end I found that the parchment paper definitely worked the best.

I let the top coat dry then painted the design on top; after the design dried I applied a top coat. I used the Nailene Top Coat; I tried Sally Hansen Hardener, Sinful Colors Clear and Sally Hansen Extreme Wear but didn't get very good results.

After letting the top coat dry the stickers peeled right off.

When it came to putting them on the nails, I applied a base coat of Sinful Colors clear and while it was still wet I put the sticker on. After allowing the sticker to dry into the base coat for a few minutes I used nail polish and cleaned up around the sides. After everything was cleaned up I applied another coat of Sinful Colors clear to lock it in. 

Now to see how long it lasts.


Chocolate Frostings

I absolutely love the chocolate cream cheese frosting that I use on my homemade brownies but a college roommate of mine gave me the recipe for her chocolate frosting and it is so delicious. 
NOTE: The cream cheese frosting is a rich frosting but makes about twice as much as needed for a 9x13 pan of brownies. The other frosting is on the thin side when it came to applying it. I put the leftover in the fridge and ate it the next day, it has a mousse consistency

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

10 oz cream cheese, softened
6 Tbsp butter, softened 
1 tsp vanilla 
4 cups powdered sugar 
3 Tbsp cocoa powder

In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer on medium speed, whip together cream cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add in vanilla and powdered sugar, then sift in cocoa powder and mix until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Chocolate Frosting

¼ c melted butter
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup cocoa
1/3 cup milk
½ tsp vanilla
3 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp Karo

Combine butter, cocoa and salt; gradually add milk and vanilla. Stir in sugar in 3 parts; add Karo.

Between Shades of Gray By: Ruta Sepetys

This was an amazing book, and I couldn't put it down. I have never read an personal accounts from during this time period and it was quite interesting to see it through the eyes of a 16 year old. I loved seeing the growth in Lina; she decided that she wasn't going to give the Russians her soul and she lived by that.
Between Shades of Gray
This is the story of Lina and her family during Stalin's reign of terror. Lina is a great artist and uses her skills to communicate with her father. Lina throughout the story learns that you can't judge a person by their actions or what they say; it is what truly lies in their heart that matters.

Fool Me Twice By: Stephanie Black

This was a really good book. I enjoyed the twists and turns that it took.
Fool Me Twice
When it comes to pleasing her twin sister, Megan O'Connor is an easy touch. She'll do just about anything to gain Kristen's approval, including trading places with her. After all, Kristen's plan promises to get Megan out of a dead-end job and make them both rich. It will be a nice reward for a little genealogical investigation--something that couldn't have happened without the help of Kristen's new LDS acquaintances. And who could blame the twins for using a tiny bit of deceit to manipulate an inheritance out of someone as demanding as their estranged Aunt Evelyn?

All Megan has to do is pretend to be Kristen, move into Evelyn's house, and take care of the wealthy old woman until her failing health kills her. It shouldn't take too long. It shouldn't be too difficult. Megan's the nice one. Except for the lie, the task is a natural fit. Everything would be perfect if she could just ignore the guilt--a feeling that only grows stronger as she spends more time with the new friends Kristen arranged for her.
But soon Megan discovers that there is more to worry about. She's living in a house of illusions where she isn't the only one playing a part. Someone has developed a new plotline that ends with a death scene--and in this version, the victim won't die of natural causes.

Beneath the surface of the sleepy New England town of Britteridge, deceit weaves a deadly web where turnabout is anything but fair play.

After By: Amy Efaw

This was a good book but for me it had a tendency to drag on. I found it fascinating how traumatic events can be blocked from our mind. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in law, as it has quite a bit of information regarding the trial. I did find the ending to be a bit of a surprise; I wish it would have continued on a bit more.
This is the story of Devon as she faces life after giving birth to IT. The baby is found in a dumpster and Devon is charged with attempted murder. As Devon is preparing for her trial, one that will decide whether she is to be tried as a juvenile or an adult, she can't help but begin to relive THAT night. Everything that Devon's hears about her case allows her to see her life in a new light, a life that she is now prepared to handle.


American Born Chinese By: Gene Luen Yang

This book had a good message, you never know what impact something you do will have on someone else. For me there was a lot of stuff in the book that could have been left out and it still had a good message. You could see growth and change in the characters but at least for me there wasn't a lot to the plot. I don't think I could honestly recommended this book to anyone.
American Born Chinese
This is the story of Jin Wang, the Monkey King, Danny and Wei-Chen. As the book progresses each chapter is told from a different point of view. As the book comes to an end you find out how they are all interconnected. Throughout the book Jin Wang and Wei-Chen have to deal with the cultural differences found between Chinese and American culture.

Never Fall Down By: Patricia McCormick

Never Fall Down, is a true story about Arn Chorn-Pond and his survival through the Cambodian genocide. Arn tells of his life before the war got him, then his time as a prisoner, followed by his time as a soldier and ends with his life in America.
Never Fall Down 
Throughout the book it is never sugar coated which I really appreciated. I watched a few interviews with Arn and Patricia McCormick, it really made the book coming alive actually hearing from him before I ever read the book. This genocide isn't usually taught in school so we don't realize what happened. This has a few graphic parts but nothing that teenagers and older kids couldn't handle.


Touching Spirit Bear By: Ben Mikaelsen

This is a really good book. The first time I read it was in seventh grade but I didn't really remember it much. Reading this book goes great with a class I'm taking about juvenile delinquents. I love to watch the change in Cole as he lives on the island and the change that we get to see come over Peter. I have seen a few people who have gone through a wilderness treatment to help them get over drug addictions and I would personally like to see it used more as a treatment. I would like to see them make it into a movie.

Touching Spirit Bear (Spirit Bear, #1)

Touching Spirit Bear is the story of Cole Matthews as he tries to overcome his anger at the world. Cole is a juvenile delinquent who is at the point where he could be tried as an adult. His parole officer suggests he lives on a remote island in Alaska for a year so he can work out his anger and hatred in a place where he can't hurt anyone. After only a few days on the island Cole is mauled by the Spirit Bear; after he has healed enough and is allowed to return to the island Cole begins a huge transformation. He is joined by Peter, the kid he beat up, and he begins to help Peter heal.


BzzAgent and Dr Scholl's Inserts

So about a month ago I joined BzzAgent after reading about a friends experience with it. They send out products for free in order to generate consumer reviews. You fill out surveys and then they match you with a campaign that they are currently running. It took about three weeks before I got my first campaign offer.

The product that I received was Dr Scholl's Inserts. I've always wanted to try them but never wanted to pay the cost of them so this was a great way to try them. In the kit was a what you do with your kit paper, the pair of inserts, and a stack of coupons (got plenty if anybody is interested!!!).

To give them a fair chance I have worn them everyday this week and for me that means a lot of walking, uphill. I even wore them on a hike down to the river to go fishing. My tennis shoes were already pretty comfortable. I haven't really see a ton of difference with the inserts, but I'm definitely going to keep giving them a chance.

All opinions written in this post are mine and I haven't been bribed to give a positive or negative feedback.


Scotts No Bake Cookies

These cookies are delicious and really easy. Plus a major bonus they are no bake!!!

2 cups sugar
½ cup milk
1 cube butter
4 Tbsp. cocoa
¾ cup peanut butter
3 cups quick oats
1 tsp. vanilla 

In a large pan mix together the sugar, milk, butter and cocoa. Boil for 1 minute then add the peanut butter, quick oats and vanilla. Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet; let set until hardened.

- When adding the peanut butter, leave it on the heat; it melts quicker and smoother.


The Scorpio Races By: Maggie Stiefvater

I liked the end of the book but the beginning dragged on. There are different things that I think should have been left out while other things should have been included, though this happens with every book. With this specific book there are different things that are described towards the end of the book that would have made so much more sense at the beginning of the book. I also enjoyed that Puck and Sean have a romance but it is very mild and is more of a mutual attraction instead of a mushy love. All in all the book wasn't bad.

The Scorpio Races

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.


Thirteen Reasons Why By: Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why is told from both Hannah's and Clays point of view. Clay inserts his views as he listens to the tapes. I really like that the story is told primarily around Clays part in Hannah's life. The book wouldn't have had such an impact if it was told through one of the other peoples perspective. This book almost makes suicide okay if you can document what caused you to do it. I really like the end when Clay goes to talk to Skye, you can see that the tapes had a positive influence on his life.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself-a truth he never wanted to face. 
"Thirteen Reasons Why" is the gripping, addictive international bestseller that has changed lives the world over. It's an unrelenting modern classic.


The Music of Dolphins By: Karen Hesse

This is a really good book and the different font sizes make it fun to read. When Mila is first learning the writing is pretty big, as soon as she begins to learn the human ways the writing decreases to a more normal size. The font changes throughout the book as Mila finds things that are harder to learn. Mila is a relatable character, especially if you have ever moved to a new location and had to learn a completely different way of life.

The Music Of Dolphins

A girl raised by dolphins must choose between two worlds in this critically acclaimed novel about what it means to be a human being.


The Wednesday Wars By: Gary Schmidt

This was an interesting book. It took me awhile to get into it but it had a ton of great messages.

The Wednesday Wars

In this Newbery Honor-winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero. THE WEDNESDAY WARS is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year.

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.


The Hunger Games By: Suzanne Collins

I really enjoyed this book,I have put off reading it because I didn't want to be disappointed after having seen the movie. The book and the movie have many differences but they complement each other well. Since I have watched the movie the whole time I read the book I pictured the characters as they are in the movie. I think with Peeta and Gale they did a good job making them very close to their book characters, but I found that with Katniss there was more variance between her characters at different points in the book. I really like that this is written from Katniss's point of view; even though it is set in a different time period many of the things Katniss says and feels are things that we today also deal with.

The Hunger Games

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen accidentally becomes a contender in the annual Hunger Games, a grave competition hosted by the Capitol where young boys and girls are pitted against one another in a televised fight to the death.


Percy Jackson The Sea of Monsters By: Rick Riordan

This has been awesome book and I can't wait for the third book!! One of the main reasons I read this is to prepare for the movie coming out later this year. The only problem I have found while reading these books is the fact that Percy is older in the movies, which keeps throwing me off; I forget that he is only 14 in the books.

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)

After a summer spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson—a six-foot-three, mentally-challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any "normal" friends.

But things don't stay quiet for long. Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: the magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millennia—only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name.the Bermuda Triangle.

Now Percy and his friends—Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson—must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family—one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon's son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.


Inside Out and Back Again By: Thanhha Lai

This books is written poetically. There isn't much to a page, allowing it to be a quick and easy read. My favorite part about Ha coming to America, comes as she is learning English. I can really relate to feeling the same way she did when I first learned English.

Inside Out and Back Again

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama. 
For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.


The Outsiders By: S.E. Hinton

S.E. Hinton wrote this book about her own experiences with a gang growing up. A film adaptation was released in 1984, I think they did a pretty good job recreating what Hinton had already created. I can see why this book has continued to remain popular throughout the years; to many people have been raised by an older sibling instead of a parent and gangs are just as much a problem today as they were then.

The Outsiders

According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

Out of the Dust By: Karen Hesse

This book is write poetically. It is a quick read and allows you to see how life during that time could have been. When I read it the first time it was a great confidence booster to read a book this easily.

Out of the Dust

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.
Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma's staggering dust storms, and the environmental--and emotional--turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.


Follow My Leader By: James B Garfield

This is a touching story, I can't imagine going blind after seeing my whole life. I think this is a great book for anyone who is facing some sort of impairment that is the result of an accident or an illness. This book was first written in 1957 but to me it felt like it had been written within the last 10 years or so.

Follow My Leader

After Jimmy is blinded in an accident with a firecracker, he has to relearn all the things he used to know. With the help of a determined therapist, he learns to read Braille and to use a cane. Then he's given the chance to have a guide dog. Learning to work with Leader is not easy, but Jimmy tries harder than he ever has before.

Holes By: Louis Sachar

This book was made into a movie in 2003. One of my favorites part about this book is the sweet onions that can cure anything, it doesn't matter how bad they stink they work. I love the happy ending, the rain that was so desperately needed but also the reunited families.

Holes (Holes, #1)

And so, Stanley Yelnats seems set to serve an easy sentence, which is only fair because he is as innocent as you or me. But Stanley is not going where he thinks he is. Camp Green Lake is like no other camp anywhere. It is a bizarre, almost otherworldly place that has no lake and nothing that is green. Nor is it a camp, at least not the kind of camp kids look forward to in the summertime. It is a place that once held "the largest lake in Texas," but today it is only a scorching desert wasteland, dotted with countless holes dug by the boys who live at the camp.

The trouble started when Stanley was accused of stealing a pair of shoes donated by basketball great Clyde "Sweetfeet" Livingston to a celebrity auction. In court, the judge doesn't believe Stanley's claim that the shoes fell from the sky onto his head. And yet, that's exactly what happened. Oddly, though, Stanley doesn't blame the judge for falsely convicting him. Instead, he blames the whole misadventure on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." Thanks to this benighted distant relative, the Yelnats family had been cursed for generations. For Stanley, his current troubles are just a natural part of being a Yelnats.

At Camp Green Lake, the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the treacherous warden is searching for something, and before long Stanley begins his own search—for the truth.

Fate conspires to resolve it all—the family curse, the mystery of the holes, the drought that destroyed Green Lake, and also, the legend of Kissing Kate Barlow, an infamous outlaw of the Wild West. The great wheel of justice has ground slowly for generations, but now it is about to reveal its verdict.