Sunday, August 17, 2014

Foil Pack Meals (Part 2)

Ladies (and gentlemen), start your grill! And impress your dinner guests with Grilled Parm-Ranch Chicken.
I was excited when I read the ingredients for this recipe because it called for carrots and fresh green beans. Lucky for me (and family) it was time to pick the carrots, and green AND purple beans from our backyard garden.

My ingredients are pictured above, but I'd recommend you use an Italian herb blend and fresh garlic, (in lieu of the garlic salt I had on hand). If you don't love garlic, skip it. The ranch and Parmesan offer up a lot of great flavor. Mixing those up with your veggies make for a colorful medley.

I like to cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes to minimize cooking time and to make them a nice bite-size for kids. And if beans aren't your thing, I think broccoli would be a nice stand-in.

You can create your foil packs as a made to order individual meal (1 chicken breast per pack with their preferred veggies), or if you intend to dish up a plate you can do 2 (average to small size) chicken breasts per foil pack, then transfer to a dish once off the grill.

When you wrap the foil around your ingredients, be sure to allow space in the pack for heat circulation and expansion.

Grill for 20 minutes, rotating each pack 1/2 way through. It's recommended that the poultry's internal temperature reaches at least 170 degrees.

Our family thought this meal was a nice change of pace, and pretty to boot!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Foil Pack Meals (Part 1)

Who doesn't love a foil pack on the grill? I remember the first time I had one, it was "Hobo Potatoes" that my friend had made. Oh the cheesy potato goodness. I was impressed by how easy and delicious it was. And that was just a side dish. To make a whole meal, or at least main course, in a piece of tinfoil is just like one of those "one pot meals"!

Two foil pack recipes that caught my eye on Pinterest were the Hearty Beef Stew, and the Grilled Parmesan Ranch Chicken.
I started with the Beef Stew recipe and ended up having it again a week later because it really hit the spot for my family at dinner time. Grilling has been ideal with the amazingly beautiful weather we've had here in Minneapolis the past couple weeks!

The recipe called for brown gravy but I went my own way with this one. The recipe was really just inspiration for me this time. I didn't want a salty gravy gooey foil pack, but did want the hearty meaty I still used steak, potatoes and carrots, but left out the gravy and onions. Here are my ingredients:

I didn't pay that price. I bought the steak on sale with a coupon!
Super simple ingredients right? I prefer using fresh garlic and garden veggies, but ours had not yet been harvested when I made this meal.

So, I stoked up the charcoal grill and cooked up 2 foil packs for 20 minutes. The recipe says 14-16 minutes but you just never know with a grill. I checked the foil packs at the 15 minute mark but the potatoes were still a little firm.

Cooking these in 2 separate packs is especially nice if you have picky eaters and/or if you have to cut food up for kids. For 1 of the packs I cut the meat into smaller pieces. You could also put more/less spices and/or veggies in 1.


If you prefer to use the oven, you could bake the foil pack on a cookie sheet for 25-30 minutes.

The steak was tender, juicy and flavorful, and the potatoes and carrots were the perfect texture. I served it up with a spinach salad and some sweet peppers with ranch (my kids love them).

In my next post I'll share the Grilled Parmesan Ranch Chicken foil pack recipe. It's a bit more involved, but worth it!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A (Grape) Slice of Life

No doubt you stumbled upon, and were amazed by the simplicity of, this grape cutting technique on Pinterest, Facebook, or YouTube!

I don't cut grapes for my kids any more, but I do cut grapes for chicken salad. So I was excited to give it a shot.

The plate is wet because I had just washed the grapes, and didn't dry them.

My anticipation quickly dwindled. This was NOT going to work. Turns out, if your plate has any depth to it the grapes will sit too low and the knife wont have room to pass through.

The trick looked so seamless and easy!

But I didn't give up. I turned the bottom plate upside down!

This did work...


But resulted in grapes cut about 1/5 instead of 1/2, and many rolling off the plate. So yes, this is a great time saver and maybe a fun party trick, but I doesn't work well (with MY plates).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baby Powder is Magical

I don't know about you, but I hate the feeling of sand in my sandals, and even worse having sand all over my car. So I pinned this beach tip. I was a little skeptical since there was no accompanying article or blog to explain and/or show that it actually worked to remove that stuck on sand from your skin.

I finally got around to trying it yesterday with my 4yr old. First, dry off as you usually would. Then sit your bum on your towel or beach blanket, with your sandals nearby.

Lake Nokomis - Minneapolis, MN
This was not staged. She really did have that much sand stuck to the TOP of her feet.

Okay, now sprinkle the baby powder anywhere there is sand on your skin. Don't forget to check the back of your calves, sand likes to hide there.

Next, wipe off sand (and powder) with your hands.

And that is a successful pin! There may be some baby powder residue left but that's so much better than sand. That and the powder has a pleasant scent and leaves your skin feeling & looking a bit softer. Now slip on your sandals and walk away sand free!

Don't worry, we trimmed and painted her toenails today so she's prepared for any additional impromptu photo shoots in the near future!

Go forth and enjoy the beach!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Repurposed Wipes Container Turned Educator

I love all the pins showing how people reuse containers from various infant and toddler care items (bum wipes, wet wipes, formula etc.). But I had yet to come across one that seemed useful for our family.

I did like when I came across ones that were an activity or game for babies or young kids. So I've been keeping an eye out for items I thought would be a good fit for the size container I had as well as something potentially educational for my 4yr old and (almost) 2yr old.


Last week I found some small, soft, colorful foam shapes in the dollar spot at Target. It was a pack of 20 with 5 shapes, each shape a different color. So I grabbed a few supplies, and got to work!

And here's what I came up with...

A fun way to learn vowels, upper vs. lower case letters, colors, and shapes! The game rules are that the kids take turns picking one block out at a time. If the letter on the block was in their name they get to keep it. If the letter is in their sibling's name they need to give it to them (encourages sharing). The first one to collect all four of one letter (in their name) wins! So they also learn about the vowels in their own name, as well as their sibling's name. The game works best with 2 players.

We tried this out for the first time tonight before bed. It turned out to be a fun and exciting way to settle down and be calm. Have you ever heard those words in the same sentence? My 4yr old asked if we could play again tomorrow night. This makes me happy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oven Fried Cheddar-Garlic Chicken

Tonight's dinner was brought to us by this pin titled "Kittencal's Moist Cheddar-Garlic Oven Fried Chicken Breast"
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
3/4 cup dry bread crumb
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

This easy to make and delicious pin was a real crowd pleaser. A definite re-pin! I didn't have any wedge/block cheese in the house so I used shredded in its place. Also, to accommodate the kids, I cut the chicken breasts into small pieces (nuggets perhaps).

This allowed additional surface space for the extra yummy (and extra crispy) breading! The chicken was definitely moist (sorry if you aren't a fan of that word haha). So much flavor, no need for any ranch or ketchup.

The only reason I would recommend going out of your way to purchase a block/wedge of cheese (if you didn't have any on hand) is if you have picky eaters that would otherwise pick off the "crust".

I thought the amount of liquid in the wet mixture was very slightly too little. I think I'd simply add a bit more butter next time. Also, I had a lot of excess bread crumbs. So I'll use less of that in the future.

At nearly 9pm, I'm STILL thinking about this meal. I wish I had doubled the recipe so I'd have leftovers for tomorrow!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chicken Bacon Alfredo Gnocchi

I pinned it on Wednesday. I made it on Thursday!

And I'll make it again. It was really good. And I hardly changed a thing from the original recipe.
Here's their ingredient list:
3 cups gnocchi
2 cups frozen broccoli
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1 - 15 ounce jar Alfredo sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Here are my ingredients (plus 6 strips of Oscar Mayer bacon unpictured):
No, this isn't an ad for Target brand products...but it could be!
I started to thaw a package of chicken breasts, but then realized I had 1/2 a rotisserie chicken. So I shredded some of that up (didn't measure it). I think that savory flavor added even more to this dish. I chose a style of gnocchi that is smaller in size compared to those in the original recipe (I've always preferred the petite ones). If you've not purchased/cooked gnocchi before don't be afraid! It's easy to find in both the noodle isle and the frozen food section. I purchased mine in the noodle isle, and it cooked on the stove-top in 2 easy minutes.

Now for the sauce. I've never liked the taste of store bought alfredo sauce, and haven't purchased any in years. But I gave it a chance with this "Prego Homestyle Alfredo", and it complimented this dish perfectly.

If you're a big fan of garlic, go for it! A small amount would marry well with this casserole. And if for some crazy reason you're not into cheese (really?), you could leave it out and this would still be a great meal.

Back to the recipe. It instructs you to place & mix the ingredients in a casserole dish, but I don't own a fancy (nor large) casserole dish. So I placed the ingredients in a large bowl, mixed them, then transferred the mixture to my old-school casserole dish.

Next I topped the mixture off with what appeared to be a ton of shredded mozzarella (it looked like a dish full of cheese). I popped it in the oven for 22min and broiled for an additional 2min.


Seconds, everyone?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Pinned Life's 1st GIVEAWAY


The first person to follow My Pinned Life, and share their favorite My Pinned Life blog post (on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) will receive a family 4-pack of tickets to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra's Xplorchestra Family Concert, 11:15am this Saturday, May 24th in St. Paul, MN!

The concert is vibrant (and short) to keep your tot or tween's attention. Ideal for ages 3-6, and fun for everyone.

Don't delay, follow & share today so you get the tickets in time for the show!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cowgirl Pony Party (Part 2: The Grub)

I was still busy prepping food when the kids started getting a bit wild. Who could blame them, it's a party! So we sent them outside to try out their stick ponies, and enjoy a cold beverage from the corral (cooler). It was stocked with root beer, sarsaparilla, and of course chocolate milk boxes. What cowhand wouldn't enjoy this selection?

The dads kept an eye on the kids, while inside we (mostly moms) put the finishing touches on the food, and had pink lemonade and cowgirl caviar to tide us over.

I had the carafe & burlap 'n lace runner left from my Vintage Woodland Baby Shower!

Yes, it's COWGIRL Caviar! What's the difference from the more common cowboy version? I took this Cowboy Caviar recipe ( and made it my own by leaving out the black beans and peppers (and slightly adjusting ingredient quantities). Here's my Cowgirl Caviar:

    5 diced Roma tomatoes
    1/2 chopped red onion
    4 cloves crushed garlic
    1 small handful chopped cilantro
    1 can corn
    2 teaspoons salt
    Juice from 1 lemon

    Allow the mixture to set in the fridge for at least a couple hours before serving.

I kept the menu simple and kid friendly by doing single serve finger foods. Cowgirls don't use utensils anyway right? I purchased troughs (disposable tins) for the kids to load their food in.

Including Watermelon Pitchforks.

Ranch Carrots, and Rice Krispies Hay Bales.

It just so happened Target stores had some cute little wood pens for sale in their Dollar Spot area. So I used those to put some of the food in

I also rustled up some Lasso Dills, and Gold Nuggets!

I admit I have poor handwriting, but chalk sure is tough to write nicely with.

The "lassos" were extra skewers left over from the Vintage Woodland Baby Shower. And though we never really have them at home, we thought chicken nuggets would be a crowd pleaser over all, and they were. BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders, and Campfire Baked Beans were also on the menu! As you can see, there was plenty of selection to accommodate kids and adults alike.

I considered doing it all a bit fancier. Fancy is actually quite easy to do, but kids and cowgirls like it simple (and within reach). So that's what I did and everyone was happy, and full. But not too full for cake! My sister & brother-in-law treated the birthday cowgirl to a pony cake.

The lower, pink, portion was chocolate, and the horse part was vanilla. Each with three layers of deliciousness.

And if that didn't stuff the kids tummies enough, they were sent home with a baggy of homemade Trail Mix including cheerios, pomegranate Craisins, almonds, chocolate chips, and Jet-Puffed Mallow Bits (tiny marshmallows). All tied up with a pink or brown twine bow.

Follow me on Pinterest to check out my Cowgirl Pony Party board to see which pins inspired this party!

We also had a second birthday party to celebrate with family. At that party the main dish was:
And boy were they good, and EASY! I highly recommend this pin. The only thing I did differently from their recipe was to use only 1/2 an onion. I happened to have a 1/2 red onion left over from the day (party) before. Yum, yum, yum.

I also had a Pinterest recipe fail while prepping for party number two. Which was completely my fault. I intended to make these Tortilla Pinwheels, I was going to call them Wagon Wheels.
I had 4 hours to go before the guests arrived, when I remembered that the instructions say to refrigerate the pinwheels for at least 6 hours before serving. Ugh, that was so frustrating! I had all the ingredients and was ready to make them, but I couldn't do it in time for the party. So instead I went out and bought some good bread. I made texas toast topped with butter and fresh garlic. It was a delicious place holder for the pinwheels.

I did make the pinwheels a week later. I altered the recipe by leaving out the veggies and instead using chunky salsa. I also used half plain flour tortillas, and half jalapeno cheddar tortillas. This gave you a spicier option, and also made the plate more attractive with the variation of white and orange pinwheels.

Next event, I need to hire a photographer! So many things I didn't get a chance to photograph.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sweet Easter Gifts (Part 2)

I was looking for a cute way to gift our new nephew his Easter Peep (plushy bunny), and thought it'd be nice to package it with some treats for his mom & dad. So I took one of the decorative trays left from my daughter's Cowgirl Pony Party and filled it with the goodies. But first I made a quick mason jar nest to include!

The bunny is so soft. I kind of wanted to keep it for myself, and pass it off as belonging to the kids. We purchased it at the Peeps store at the Mall of America! I'm sure you can find them online as well

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cowgirl Pony Party (Part 1: Fun & Games)

First on my list when planning a child's birthday party, decide on a theme. Don't be afraid of that word "theme". It can be anything really! For my daughter we've done a theme based on a season (spring, for her 1st birthday), a color (for her 2nd birthday), and based on a story (The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, for her 3rd birthday). This year, for her 4th birthday, she decided on cowgirls & ponies. And from there we were off!

I poured through Pinterest boards and came up with some great pinspiration. I started with these pin ideas for fun and games! Its really nice that she's old enough now to give real input on her party planning. She was giddy at the thought of the kids getting to wear tails! And she'd never had a pinata before.

And here's how it turned birthday girl was decked out in a custom Bandana Bell cowgirl dress made by her grandma! And fitted with her own stick pony and tail! She referred to herself as a "Princess Pony Cowgirl". The dress was inspired by the photo above, but really I just told Grandma the only requirements were that it included bandanas and the colors light pink and purple. So I picked up a couple bandanas at Jo-Ann Fabric, Grandma's sister had a super cute pattern, and Grandma made it happen! You can check out her blog too (

Mid pony ride with pink popcorn in her mouth & balloon in one hand.

While at Jo-Ann Fabric, I also picked up the felt for the stick ponies, and the yarn for the tails. Grandma made those too, with the exception of the stick portion which my husband made. The original stick pony pin has thorough instructions for making your own. Though I'd recommend using something heavy duty (and applying it liberally) to adhere the fabric pony heads to the wood sticks. The first time a child, or adult, grabs one by the head instead of the stick it will simply pop off! They do slide right back on though.

It was fun to hand out a hat, stick pony and tail to each little cowboy and cowgirl. I even saw a couple of the youngest cowgirls brushing their tails.

All 10 of them were able to get their wiggles out by riding their ponies and breaking open the pinata!

We also did face painting! I found face painting crayons at Michaels (you can also get ones with stencils). Having never tried the crayons before, I was surprised how nicely they worked.

The kids kept busy and had a blast. I've never been so happy to hear so much (excited) screaming. And we really lucked out with the weather (it had been cold all week, and rained the morning of the party)! She was a very happy birthday girl.

In the upcoming part 2 of this post I'll fill you in on all the party food!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Plant Jelly Beans

Last year I found this pin, and my daughter loved it!

So we made it a tradition! This year, the evening before Easter we planted a few "magic jelly beans".

The kids really enjoyed planting the beans, especially packing the dirt down on top. The next morning, as we left the house for Easter festivities, the first thing they saw was the special treat that grew over night! Did you know, it only works the night before Easter?

First dibs.
So excited.
Who knew scrolling through Pinterest would lead to so many good meals, a prettier home, extra fun celebrations, and new family traditions!