Cake Mix Cookies

Cake Mix Cookies

I love to have fresh-baked goods on hand, but with our crazy schedule, who has time to bake? I love it when I can find a quick, easy recipe that allows me to make delicious treats for my family, while keeping it simple for me. Cake Mix Cookies are just about the simplest cookie in my repertoire, but they are always a big hit. They are so delicious, in fact, that nobody would ever know they are made with only four ingredients (cake mix, butter, eggs, and extract). I call that a win/win.

Cake Mix Cookies

You can make Cake Mix Cookies with just about any flavor of cake mix you like. We were craving a lemony dessert, so we went with a lemon cake mix and a little lemon extract. A week or so ago, I received in the mail a shipment of the newly reformulated I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®. It is made from real, simple ingredients you can recognize like a delicious blend of plant-based oils, purified water and a pinch of salt. Since the packaging states, “The new I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® offers a fresh butter taste to add flavor to any meal, and can be used for spreading, topping, sautéing, cooking or baking,” I used it in my Cake Mix Cookies in place of the butter. They turned out perfectly delicious! They were just the right amount of chewy and sweet. I was very pleased with the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®, and I will definitely use it again.

Cake Mix Cookies

To make Cake Mix Cookies, you’ll need:

1 boxed cake mix (Whatever flavor you want. We used lemon.)
2 eggs
8 oz I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!®, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon extract (Whatever flavor goes with your cake mix. We used lemon. Vanilla and almond are also good choices.)

With a mixer or by hand, cream together the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® and the eggs. Add the extract. While mixing, slowly add the cake mix until it is well blended.

At this point, I stick mine back in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let the batter firm up a little. You can skip this step, but yours will cook about a minute or so faster.

Cake Mix Cookies

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake on 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes. As all oven temperatures vary, keep an eye on them so that they don’t overcook.

Cake Mix Cookies

Remove to a cooling rack to cool.

Cake Mix Cookies

Cake Mix Cookies aren’t as sweet as say, a chocolate chip cookie or a snicker doodle. However, they are perfectly light and airy.

I encourage you guys to try the new I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and see how great it is for baking. If you love it much as I did, be sure to leave a product review here so that others can find out about it, too.

 

Cake Mix Cookies
Yields 18
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Ingredients
  1. 1 boxed cake mix (Whatever flavor you want. We used lemon.)
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 8 oz I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!®, softened to room temperature
  4. 1 teaspoon extract (Whatever flavor goes with your cake mix. We used lemon. Vanilla and almond are also good choices.)
Instructions
  1. With a mixer or by hand, cream together the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® and the eggs. Add the extract. While mixing, slowly add the cake mix until it is well blended.
  2. At this point, I stick mine back in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let the batter firm up a little. You can skip this step, but yours will cook about a minute or so faster.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake on 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes. As all oven temperatures vary, keep an eye on them so that they don't overcook.
  4. Remove to a cooling rack to cool.
The Hill Hangout http://www.thehillhangout.com/
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Work of Worth: Bringing Hope to the Hopeless

God is big. So big.

It’s such a mystery that in His bigness, He cares about the details and loves each of us individually. He is our Jehovah Roi, the God who sees it all. Each little things in our lives is seen and pondered by our big, faithful God who loves us so dearly.

Last year I began stepping up my work with Freeset, a beautiful organization that serves the poor and abused in India by providing them employment with dignity. Freeset offers women trapped in the sex trade the opportunity to walk away from that life and walk into a life of freedom. It’s big work. God-sized work. Work which can only be accomplished one life at a time, one day at a time.

My friend Kristi led the US division of that organization faithfully. She imported goods from India made by the Freeset women, sold them in the US, and returned the money to India so that more women could be employed. That in itself was big work. That in itself was God-sized work. But God was up to something even bigger.

Work of Worth was established last year by Kristi, a friend, and a college student with a good idea. The basic idea is simple: buy goods from artisans in poverty, and sell them to eager customers in the US. “Social entrepreneurship” is the big title given to this business model. The Bible calls it being the Church. Bringing hope and sustenance to the hopeless and impoverished.

Besides having a good business model that addresses one of the issues Jesus talks about most, Work of Worth brings American consumers what they want: excellent goods at excellent prices. I’m happy to share a few of those items with you because I know you will love them and want to purchase a few things. My favorite items from Work of Worth have been curated here:

Work of Worth

First up on the top right is the Sari Infinity Scarf. These are handmade in Bangladesh, the MOST impoverished country in the world, from old saris. The terrific thing about these scarves is the rich colors. Simply gorgeous. They are infinity scarves, but the fabric is light a gauzy, so they aren’t too bulky around the neck. These are great in every color!

The Leather Tote Bag is like butter! It is handmade in India by a gentleman who is a true artisan. The bags enable him to provide for his family, and they are daily rising out of poverty into a life of dignity. These bags are the real deal. They are made from genuine leather that is hand-stitched. The Work of Worth website has several styles available, including a few styles for men.

Working clockwise, the next item is the Decopalm Journal. This jade and gold journal is 30 pages, and it is made from recycled paper. These are handmade in India, and are available in several patters for only $15 each.

The Tribal Meets Regal necklace looks great on the site, but is even more stunning in person. They are made from hand carved and hand dyed wooden beads. And don’t miss the clasp. The details on this necklace are spot on! It is available in black, cobalt blue, and pink salmon. Each color is deep and fabulous.

The Summer Orchard Necklace is 36″ long, so it is GREAT to wear over sweaters and collared blouses. The colors are bold, and the beads are chunky, so it is truly a statement necklace, even though it is simple.

The Gypsy Relic Necklace is a terrific layering piece, but it is fabulous as a stand-alone necklace as well. It is made from a mix of glass and pearl beads, with an antique-style coin pendant. You have, no doubt, seen similar necklaces in boutique shops, but they certainly weren’t $20.00!!! This bargain necklace supports women in poverty in India.

And finally, a closing statement from Work of Worth: Work of Worth is an organization dedicated to utilizing the power of commerce to free the oppressed throughout the world. WoW exists primarily as an import and distribution company, for the purpose of connecting entrepreneurs and businesses in the developing world to the Western market. The result becomes people of worth who are transformed, sustainably employed, changing the poverty cycle, and freed from trafficking. Work of Worth is devoted to philanthropic entrepreneurship in impoverished regions of the developing world through importing manufactured goods from entrepreneurs in the developing world to markets in the United States. WoW supports and promotes entrepreneurs dedicated to treating their employees with dignity, paying a fair wage, and transforming lives. Entrepreneurial philanthropy is bold enough to bring fair wages to the villages and cities of the developing world. We invite you to see their product offerings and value their work so that they may sustain a future for their family’s and future generations.

10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

Many of you know my friend Kari Kampakis and have read her blog posts about raising daughters. Now, you can dive deeper with Kari into raising preteen/teens with her new book out today called 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know.

This book is designed to help you and your daughters navigate the years when it’s easier to focus on what the world says than what God says. (And really, isn’t that ALL the years, including the adult ones?) I can’t recommend it enough as a resource for parents to use with your daughters. Put together a book club with your neighborhood girls, soccer team, or Sunday school class and work your way through these truths!

I am looking forward to studying it with my daughter’s soccer team, as they are at just the right age to be reminded, reminded, and reminded again truths like “Kindness is more important than popularity,” and “Chasing boys doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a nuisance.” But the truth I am most looking forward to studying with them is “You were born to fly.”

Yes, darling girls, you most definitely were.

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Though I’ve lived in Birmingham and/or Meridian, Mississippi, most of my adult life, I actually grew up in southeast Alabama. Most of my childhood was spent in Dothan, which was a fantastic place to be a kid. Our neighborhood was full of boys and girls who were allowed to ride our bikes anywhere we wanted to go, as long as we were home by the time the street lights came on. Most summer days, we’d make the one mile trek to Water World, the water park near our home that boasted the city’s only wave pool and water slide. We’d leave home dressed in nothing but a swimsuit with a towel draped over our shoulders (No sunscreen! Yikes!). By the time we got back home, we’d be wet, spent, and starving. That little town in southeast Alabama and the people who live there hold lots of happy memories for me.

Dothan is known as the Peanut Capital of the World, owing to the abundance of the crop produced by the multitude of farmers in the area. While Now Orleans and Mobile have their Mardi Gras, Dothan has the National Peanut Festival, complete with a fair, parades, and the crowning of the Peanut Festival Queen. Every restaurant in town serves dishes made with peanuts, but by far the most popular on every restaurant’s menu is peanut butter pie.

Peanut butter pie is as much a part of life in Dothan as BBQ is in Memphis. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories! Every restaurant and Dothanite cook has their own recipe, and each one is delicious. This pie really isn’t hard to make, but it tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen. Do your family a favor and make them a peanut butter pie!

You’ll need:

  • 1 graham cracker crust
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 8-oz block cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts, chopped fine
  • Chocolate syrup for drizzling

Whip the whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar together. Set aside. (If your crew will let you get away with using Cool Whip, by all means, make it easy on yourself. Mine revolt on me when I don’t use the real thing. :))

Peanut Butter Pie

Whip together the peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in half of the whipping cream and mix until blended.

Peanut Butter Pie

Pour into pie crust.

Peanut Butter Pie

Top with whipping cream.

Sprinkle nuts on top when ready to serve. If you put them on too far in advance, they lose some of their crunch.

Peanut Butter Pie

When cut into slices, drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Peanut Butter Pie

I hope you enjoy peanut butter pie as much as our crew does.

 

Peanut Butter Pie
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Ingredients
  1. 1 graham cracker crust
  2. 1 pint whipping cream
  3. 1 cup + 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  4. 1 cup peanut butter
  5. 1 8-oz block cream cheese
  6. 1/4 cup chopped peanuts, chopped fine
  7. Chocolate syrup for drizzling
Instructions
  1. Whip the whipping cream and confectioner's sugar together. Set aside.
  2. Whip together the peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in half of the whipping cream and mix until blended.
  3. Pour into pie crust.
  4. Top with whipping cream.
  5. Sprinkle nuts on top when ready to serve. If you put them on too far in advance, they lose some of their crunch.
  6. When cut into slices, drizzle with chocolate syrup.
Notes
  1. Store in fridge.
The Hill Hangout http://www.thehillhangout.com/

The Right Necklace for Necklines

Statement necklaces aren’t going anywhere. I, for one, am happy about this trend because bold accessories are a terrific way to liven up a neutral outfit. But if you are like me, and sometimes wonder which type of necklace to wear, check out this chart to help you choose the right necklace for necklines.

Necklace for Necklines Armed with the knowledge of how to best wear your accessories, you can pull together an outfit that accentuates your look in all the right ways. Feel free to pin this chart to Pinterest so you can refer back to it. Wear those statement necklaces well, friends!

Dollar Tree Anniversary Celebration

Hey, gang! Hope you’re all having a good day. Just a quick word to let you know about a few good deals I found at Dollar Tree. I’m happy to be partnering with them to let you know about their Dollar Tree Anniversary Celebration. A few details about their event:

  • Celebrate Dollar Tree’s Anniversary from September 28-October 11, 2014 with tons of new Bonus Buys with up to 58% more FREE for each item.
  • Many of your brand-name favorites are available for a limited time in larger sizes, but are still only $1. From cleaning supplies and home décor, to health and beauty care, snacks, beverages, and so much more, Dollar Tree stores will be packed with super savings.
  • Shop in stores and online for these two weeks, but remember – quantities are limited, so hurry in today to stock up on these incredible deals.
  • For more information, visit the Dollar Tree website.
  • While you’re in your local Dollar Tree store shopping for Bonus Buys, stock up on Halloween décor, candy, costume accessories, and more. It’s all $1 each!

Dollar Tree is a terrific place to shop for cleaning supplies. Since our homeschool year and fall activities started back, I have been getting the girls to pitch in more with the house cleaning. I’ll be stocking up on Dollar Tree cleaning supplies so that they have everything they need on hand to knock out chores.

cleaning-DT2014

Bonus Buy Cleaning Supplies include:

  • 40-oz. bottles of LA’s Totally Awesome Window Cleaner
  • 128-oz. jugs of LA’s Totally Awesome Ammonia
  • 40-oz. bottles of Mister Plumber Drain Opener
  • 48-oz. bottles of Pine Glo Disinfectant Cleaner
  • 24-count canisters of Good & Clean Disinfectant Wipes
  • 25-count packs of Wet Floor Wipes
  • 3-count packs of Scrub Sponges

There are also Bonus Buys on school lunch and pantry essentials, health and beauty products, sweets and treats, and household products.

Thanks to Dollar Tree for sponsoring this post. As usual, all opinions are entirely my own.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

I absolutely adore the transitional time between seasons. It’s like God knows His kids need a change. As much as I adore summer with its lazy days and slow pace, around this time of year I begin to look forward to the change into autumn. Now in the Deep South our temps will stay in the 80s and 90s for a while, so we can’t put away our summer wardrobe quite yet. However, we can begin to incorporate a few fabulous fall accessories to freshen up our look. I’ve spotted a few things recently that I thought you’d like to see:

The Sari Infinity Scarf from Work of Worth: This new company is hitting it out of the park with their beautiful accessories, as well as their commitment to women oppressed by poverty. Their Sari Infinity scarves come in rich colors, but the scarves are lightweight enough to wear now. They are a gorgeous way to add a little color, pattern, and texture to an otherwise neutral outfit.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Moonstone Chandelier earrings by Calypso St. Barth are a beautiful statement earring that are neutral enough to go with most any outfit.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

Tassel necklaces are everywhere this fall, and the Boho one from Blue Door Boutique is lovely.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Rustic Tote from Noonday Collection: This bag is perfect in so many ways. The color and texture of the leather is all kinds of rustic goodness. The size and shape of the bag are just what busy moms need.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Tribal Meets Regal necklaces from Work of Worth are made in India from hand-carved and dyed beads. They come in black, cobalt blue, and pink salmon (shown below).

Fabulous Fall Accessories

Because I’m in my 40s and these things are important to me, I’m definitely picking up a pair of these Ombre Round Readers from Forever 21. They are totally cute, and only cost $5.80!!

Fabulous Fall Accessories

I know it’s been around a while, but I’m still crushing on the Ancho Belt from Noonday Collection. And the good news is that it’s on sale for 50% off!

Fabulous Fall Accessories

I recently received a bracelet similar to the Sparti Metallic Cuff from Francesca’s in a Stitchfix shipment. I sent it back, and I have regretted it ever since! This is a fabulous bracelet!

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Gypsy Relic Necklace from Work of Worth would look great layered with other necklaces, but it’s perfect by itself.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

What’s on your must-have list of fabulous fall accessories?

Make Your Own Flavored Cooking Oil

Make Your Own Flavored Cooking Oil

It only takes one trip to the local specialty grocery store to see that flavored cooking oils can be quite expensive. Not long ago, a recipe I was making called for garlic-infused olive oil. It was about $12 at my corner market, which I consider to be highway robbery. I’m a work-at-home mom who has to be careful about where to save and where to splurge, and this was definitely NOT a splurge item for me. So I made my own. It was super easy, and you can make your own flavored cooking oil with any of your favorite herbs and spices. You can even mix flavors and create wonderfully flavored combinations. You can use flavored cooking oil to sauté fish, veggies, or chicken. Substitute it in any recipe that calls for olive oil. You can also use it with your favorite vinegar for salad dressing, and it is to-die-for as a dipping sauce for bread!

Choosing Your Oil

To make your own flavored cooking oil, the first step is to choose your oil. Most any cooking oil will work, so there is no need to purchase the most expensive oil on the shelf. Besides, you are adding flavor to the oil, so it will be delicious. To get a flavor that is closest to the herb or spice you are using, use a more flavorless oil like peanut, corn, vegetable, or canola oil. My personal preference, though, is to use olive oil. While the olive oil has its own distinct flavor which will infuse with the herbs and spices, I actually prefer this blending of flavors because I want the flavor of the olive oil to shine through.

Choosing Your Herbs and Spices

Hands down, my favorite herbs to use to make your own flavored cooking oil are ones that come from my herb garden. Basil and rosemary are my go-to herbs, but I also love to use green onion. Fresh roasted garlic and whole peppercorns are terrific spices to add, and you can adjust the level of punch to your liking. Don’t be afraid to mix herbs and spices together in oils. For an Italian flavored oil, you can combine basil, oregano, and garlic. Another favorite combo is lemon and garlic. When using fresh herbs, I typically add about 15 leaves of basin, about 5 garlic cloves, around 15 peppercorns, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and/or about 5 long sprigs of rosemary.

Choosing Your Container

Most discount stores like Walmart and Target carry olive oil dispensers. They are found in the kitchen section, and they are pretty inexpensive, usually around $5. You can order the Tablecraft Olive Oil Dispenser from Amazon, and I believe it is the one I used when I made this basil oil:

Make Your Own Flavored Cooking Oil

A couple of things to note:

  • Flavored cooking oils will last around ten days in the cabinet or around a month in the fridge. If you refrigerate, give the oil about 20 minutes to come to room temperature before using.
  • Using dried herbs can make the oil last longer, but be aware that chopped herbs can clog up the spout.
  • Flavored cooking oils make a fun gift for your friends and family. Who doesn’t love a handmade gift, especially one that is as useful and thoughtful as this!

Sesame Noodles

Sesame Noodles

We are back in the swing of the fall schedule around here, and that means busy days! Being a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, I usually cook three meals a day, plus at least a couple of snacks for the girls. I do love cooking, but when our schedule is particularly hectic, I need a meal idea that is quick to prepare, and it doesn’t hurt if it’s inexpensive as well. Sesame Noodles have become a go-to for weekday lunches and late-night meals. They have been a life-saver for me on the days when soccer practice runs late or our daytime schedule is full of errands.

Sesame Noodles

Meals don’t have to be complex to be delicious. Sesame Noodles are among the simplest of meals that I fix, yet they are alive with flavor. We love them best as they are, but you can amp them up with chicken, shrimp, or flank steak. They are also delicious with broccoli, red bell pepper, or steamed carrots thrown in.

When I say Sesame Noodles are simple to make, I’m not kidding. They only require that you boil noodles and mix a sauce. Toss them both together, and you have a magical, tasty dish that can be enjoyed as a one-dish meal or as a side dish. They can also be served either hot or cold.

The Short But Sweet List of Ingredients

One pound of noodles, cooked (I prefer thin spaghetti, but you can use your favorite)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3-4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced

The How-To

Boil your noodles, drain, and set aside.

Sesame Noodles

In a separate dish, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic powder, and sugar.

Sesame Noodles

Pour sauce over noodles and toss to coat. Sprinkle green onions and toasted sesame seeds over top. Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles
This simple noodle dish can be served hot or cold. It can also be served as-is or with added chicken, shrimp, steak, or veggies.
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup soy sauce
  2. 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  3. 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  4. 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  5. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1 teaspoon sugar
  7. 1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  8. 3-4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Boil your noodles, drain, and set aside.
  2. In a separate dish, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic powder, and sugar.
  3. Pour sauce over noodles and toss to coat. Sprinkle green onions and toasted sesame seeds over top. Enjoy!
The Hill Hangout http://www.thehillhangout.com/

Pearson Homeschool Interactive Science: A Review

Disclaimer: Pearson provided me the materials for this review free of charge. They have also compensated me for my time to write this review. They did not require me to write a positive review. As always, opinions about products or services I review are entirely my own.

When my oldest daughter was in first grade, I wasn’t sure how I should go about teaching science. I knew I wanted her to know about a variety of subjects, but I didn’t really know how to attack this animal. I purchased a science workbook at our local teacher supply store, but it was too simple and she was finished with it in a few weeks. We read tons of science books from the library, and this is really where she received much of her true science education that year. As my youngest daughter is just starting first grade science, I was looking for something that would make my life easier. I jumped at the chance to review a copy of Pearson Homechool’s Interactive Science curriculum, as it sounded like it would cover a variety of topics, but in an orderly and systematic way.

alt="Pearson Homeschool"

The Pearson Interactive Science curriculum has been exactly what I needed. Patterson uses the student book, which is a consumable workbook with beautiful illustrations, activities, and text. I have access to the online Teachers Edition eText, which provides teaching helps as well as lesson plans.

What Is Being Taught?

The topics covered are perfect for someone studying science for the first time.

  • The Nature of Science
  • The Design Process
  • Living Things and Their Environment
  • Plants and Animals
  • Earth and Sky
  • Weather
  • Matter
  • Energy
  • Movement

Pearson Homeschool

 

How Is It Being Taught?

I review the Teacher’s Edition eText before I start the week to determine which components of the lesson I am going to use. It is also helpful to review the experiments so that I can be sure I have the materials on hand. When I sit down with my student, we read the text and discuss the questions. She writes the answers to the questions, which are short and require minimal writing skills. We complete the activity and review the vocabulary cards. The vocabulary is a little advanced for first graders, in my opinion, but she has done well with it when I provide further explanation. The Teacher’s Edition eText provides differentiated instruction for students who need additional instruction in order to understand the concepts. This has been quite helpful, as science isn’t Patterson’s strong suit. The Lesson Checks provided in the Teacher’s Edition eText are also helpful to ensure the student has really understood the lesson.

Open Book

If you’re looking for a new science curriculum, I highly recommend Pearson’s product. It has worked well for my family and provided the “meat” I was looking for in a science curriculum. You can use code BLG25 to receive 25% off their Interactive Science Bundle for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, and 5th Grade.

The coupon code is also good for their other products:

  • MCP Plaid Phonics Bundle Grades K-6
  • myWorld Social Studies Bundle Grades K-6
  • enVision Math Bundle Grades K-6

This code expires September 15, 2014.

Pearson is a great partner in your child’s education. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.