Monday, January 30, 2012

Bertolli "Make a Weeknight Meal Special" Challenge

Mealtimes at my house can be pretty chaotic, mostly because I'm not a great cook. Coming up with interesting meal ideas that everyone likes can be pretty challenging. Part of that challenge comes from the fact that I only cook 5 or 6 things really well, so when we try to work a new recipe into the rotation, I kind of panic. Why? Because I'm one of those people that can follow a recipe to the letter and still not have the dish turn out right. It's true. I once messed up Hamburger Helper. HAMBURGER HELPER, people!!!   Weeknight meals are even tougher to pull off because there is much less time to get things organized after a busy day at work and school, then get everyone fed before we have to take off for Scouts or other evening activities. So I often look for easy meals that don't take a lot of prep time, but that still taste yummy.

I had the opportunity tonight to  try out new Bertolli Meal Soups.  The challenge was to "Make a Weeknight Meal Special" using Bertolli Meal Soup and my own creativity.   The catch is that I had to have it ready to go in just an hour.  For some people that would be a walk in the park.  For me?  I was a little worried about meeting the 60 minute deadline.  However, my fears quickly dissipated once I found the Bertolli Soup Meals in the supermarket and got them home.  I grabbed two bags so the boys could have a choice: 

Tuscan Style Beef and Vegetables 

 and Tomato Florentine and Tortellini with Chicken.

All I had to do was pour the contents of each bag in a pot and add a cup of water.  NO WAY in heck I could mess this one up.

While the soups heated, I cleaned off the table which was filled with lots and lots of papers, mail and various handouts and homework assignments.  I wanted to set it with the nice dishes and a pretty centerpiece, but all my good stuff is still packed in the garage from our recent (is 5 months still considered recent?) move.  So I settled for a clutter free table, which I considered to be a decent size accomplishment all by itself!  And given ther fact that Big Man works at night, having a meal at the table as a family was pretty special too.  We don't get to do that too often because he usually leaves for work before dinnertime.

Tuscan Style Beef and Vegetables           Tomato Florentine and Tortellini with Chicken

By the time the table was set, the soup was done.  I added some crusty french bread rolls that I'd snagged when I was checking out of the grocery store and we all sat down to a yummy, easy to make meal that was ready in less than an hour.  

I started the meal at 6:50 pm and we finished eating at 7:33. No stress, no mess and everybody left the table satisfied. SUCCESS!

Things we loved about the soups:
  • Fresh ingredients...the vegetables were not all mushy and wilted, the pasta was not overcooked and the meat chunks are real meat.
  • Hearty...the soups are not all broth. The pasta and veggies give them substance to make them filling enough that they satisfied all 3 of my hungry fellows!
  • Super fast to prepare! I'm not kidding...the soups heat up in 10-15 minutes!

The only negative comment about the taste of the soup came from my husband, who loved the Tuscan Style Beef, but thought the Tomato Florentine with Tortellini was a little sweet for his taste.  I liked them both and found the Tomato Florentine to be perfectly lovely.

So tonight it was Bertolli Meal Soups for the win.  Will I buy Bertolli Meal Soups again?!  Yep, but to be honest, at $8.99 per bag at my local supermarket, I will definitely wait until I have coupons and couple those with a sale to make it a more affordable meal.  I love Bertolli products because the quality and taste of the food is always outstanding and I have no problem paying a bit more for quality ingredients.  But for a family on a really tight budget, this is not a meal we could do often without some help from sales and coupons.

Bertolli Meal Soups can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery store.  You can find out which of your local grocers carries the soups at the Bertolli website.  You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook, where you can ask questions and leave comments about the Bertolli Meal Soups product line.

**Disclosure: I was compensated by Bertolli to participate in the Weeknight Meal Special Challenge.  However, the opinions in my reviews are my own.** 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yo cookie looks goooood!

Little Man saw me working on my new blog, at home in {Boise}, yesterday and asked me to show him the post about our Christmas cookies so he could look at his Scary Santa cookie again.  It hurt his feelings that I never posted the pics of our cookie decorating adventures with my new bestie, Jen Across the Street.  That's what I call her.  Because her name is Jen and she lives across the street. And she's a hoot.  And she's a great neighbor who always thinks about others and actually acts on her thoughts.  She also cooks really good food, which adds to the great neighbor feature, because she is one of those women who makes extra of whatever she's cooking and then shares it with us.  I aspire to be like her one day.

She invited us over right before Christmas to decorate Christmas Cookies.  I was thrilled, because that meant I didn't have to bake cookies myself, plus I love hanging out with Jen.  We get a lot of talking done when we are together and I always leave her house feeling like I have a kindred spirit.  Okay...back to the cookies.  Jen totally outdid herself, because she made about 8000 cookies.  Okay - I exaggerate.  But there were a lot of cookies.  And a lot of decorations.  Cool cookie decorations.  Jen likes to be creative and she inspired me to do something fun and creative with my cookies.  So, without further ado, here are our 2011 Christmas Cookies...

What is it with boys and scary things?  He wanted to make a "Scary Santa."  I have to was pretty scary!

The little colored lights?  Were actually candy coated chocolate covered sunflower seeds.  I told you Jen had some cool cookie decorations!  They worked so well for the christmas light look.  Too bad they did not taste as good as they looked.  Seriously weird tasting little confections. 

These were just a few of my favorite cookies.  We actually decorated about 2 dozen cookies apiece.  Around midnight Jen and I realized we were running out of ideas and motivation and finally quit, even though she had another eleventy billion undecorated cookies waiting to be iced. 

So she sent us home with all of our creations and you know how I repaid her?  I accidently melted the plastic platter that she lent me to carry the cookies home.  I left it sitting on top of the stove that night and because my stupid rental stove is about 9000 years old, when the oven heats up all the burners get really hot too.  Which I did not realize, because I usually don't leave plastic platters on the stovetop.  So when I started to preheat the stove the next day, I couldn't figure out why I was smelling burnt plastic.  Then I picked up the platter, which was kind of stuck to the burner.  Nice.

But as I said, my new bestie really rocks.  When I saw her that afternoon I sheepishly handed her the platter and explained what happened and she laughed.  Really hard.  And THAT is why we are friends. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Son the Doppleganger

So we're sitting in the tire place last week waiting for our tire to get repaired (remind to tell you about how it is STILL NOT REPAIRED after 2 hours at the tire shop!) and my Little Man is trying to occupy himself.  Big Brother is manning the camera and after one particular shot he busts out with a snort laugh, which of course made me look up from my People magazine...

"What are you two doing?" 

"Mom!  He looks like Dwight from The Office!"

" do you know who Dwight is?  I don't let you watch that show." 

"We watch it with Dad sometimes." 

"Nice.  Lemme see the picture..."

He does look a little like Dwight!  That is so scary. 

"Here - try it again with my glasses."

Oh MY GOSH!!  He totally looks like Dwight.


"Quit it.  Take off the glasses. That just freaks me out."

How does one go from looking like Opie Taylor

to Dwight Shrute!?

"Little Man, promise me you'll never do that again.  You aren't a Dwight, you're a cute little it?"

Goalforit Review

Well, here we are...the beginning of a New Year.  As usual, I am procrastinating having my yearly internal debate about what goals to set for myself and my family so we can feel like we are making progress.  I used to be way more goal-oriented than I am.  Something about adding kids to the equation really threw me off my game and in the 12 years since the first one was born, I haven't fully regained my footing when it comes to planning, goal-setting and achieving life dreams.  So I am grateful for the opportunity to review tools and programs that help me as I search for ways to get on more solid ground when it comes to training my children and retraining myself to set goals in order to achieve the successes we seek in life. 

Goalforit is a great new online resource that provides a variety of free solutions for personal success that are easy to use and can help bring more focus, balance and fulfillment into everyday living.  Did I say FREE?  YES!!  I did!!  Goalforit is free and the sign-up process takes about 30 seconds, so I was liking the program right from the start.  Free and Easy?  How often does that combination come up in life?!?  Okay...back to the review...

The program allows users to create personalized charts to help track their progress in various areas of their lives. For example, my oldest son has decided that he wants to work on being healthier this year.  So we sat down and made a chart that would help him see what he needs to work on each day to develop healthy habits.  It looks like this:

He can check his own progress and we set it up with a daily email reminder so that if either one of us forgets to check the chart ( with his ADD and my hormonally induced "brain fog" we need all the help we can get!) we will get a gentle cyber nudge to keep us on track. 

I also set up a Chore Chart for Little Man.  The chore charts are customizable so you can create your own chores that aren't already listed on the site and there are fun stickers the kids can use to check off the chores they've done.  Again, parents can set up email reminders or print the charts out so kids have a visual reminder. 

The Chore Chart can help teach kids, tweens & teens many important lessons, including:
  • Responsibility; A Chore Chart is an ideal way to help your kids feel like they are making a contribution to their family by doing their part around the house.
  • Understanding right from wrong; Setting behavior goals is an important way to help children strengthen their character and judgment.
  • Healthy Habits; Teaching good habits involving nutrition and physical activity are the cornerstone of prevent obesity in children and adolescents.
  • Money Matters; The optional point system teaches children three important lessons for managing money; earning, spending and saving.
A unique feature that Goalforit has incorporated into its program is the ability to include friends and family in your plans through the use of the community settings  Simply add the people you want to be able to view your progress and they can check in to see how you are doing and help cheer you on as you work toward your goals.  I can see where this would be a great tool to help  a person stay motivated with really big challenges, like weight loss or training for a marathon.  Nothing like accountability and a cheering section to help spur you on when you are feeling a little less than positive, right?!  If you're doing a group thing that includes friends and family in different locations you can all post your progress right to your Facebook pages to keep everybody updated and motivated. 

Overall I think that Goalforit is a great online tool. And since it doesn't cost anything to try, my family and I will be using it over the next few months to try to bring some order and balance to our otherwise chaotic lives.  Here's to a successful year of reaching our goals!

**Disclosure: This is a compensated post, written on behalf of GoalForIt. However, I am never under any obligation to write a positive review, and the opinions posted here are always mine and mine alone.**