Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Appetizers and Sweet Ideas for the Super Bowl or Any Potluck/Party You May Have

       It's that time of year. The day where people who care about football and those who don't come together to root for opposing teams in a friendly rivalry. If you are like me, you don't really care who wins so you root for the team opposite of those you care about just to get some competition in, or you mostly come for the  commercials, half-time show, and most importantly, the appetizers.

      If you've ever been to a potluck or have had to bring a dish to pass, chances are, you have a go-to snack that you like to bring that's easy to make. If you have hosted an event, you may go one step further and provide a meat dish. 

      I realize, however, that there are some of you who are out there adulating for the first time or are very new to this. Maybe you are attending your first event where you can't rely on your mom to bring something and you are looking for an easy dish to pass. Or maybe, just maybe, you want to venture out and bring something new, something different. Well, I hope that I can help you choose something easy and tasty by making you a list to choose from. Here are some of my favorites as well as suggestions from friends. 

Disclaimer- Not all recipes are mine. The recipes with links are recipes that I found on Pinterest or other websites.

1. BBQ Nachos-
 Ok, so we have this restaurant near me that sells BBQ Nachos- They are amazing, but pricey. One day, we ordered from there and I thought, "You know, these are good, I wonder if I can make them at home?" So I tried it.

Ok, so Sam's Club used to have a pulled pork product that I used to love to buy for this occasion, but they stopped selling it, for some reason. The last time I went, I ended up buying this, and it worked just as well and you can sauce it up, how you'd like. This is the link to it.
If you're going to have a lot of friends and family over, you might want to make two  or more of these. Basically, warm this meat up or throw it into a crock pot to warm. 

Then you'll want to provide toppings:

Jalapeno Peppers- You can find a jar of them in the Mexican food aisle or even find some in the pickle aisle (not always). Get the kind that say they are for nachos because they are already sliced up.

Green Onion- This is a pain in the butt to cut up if you don't have the right knives or cutting apparatus, but they do add to the flavor.

Shredded Cheddar Cheese- buy some already shredded or shred it yourself.

Diced tomatoes- Better if fresh

Sour Cream- I think the Daisy squeeze is easiest.

Tortilla chips- I like the kind that are more authentic, but Tostitos are good, too.

Set up a station and have people layer them how they want. Enjoy! 

2. Deviled Eggs- How could something so easy and delicious have such an evil name? You can use this recipe, or use mine, which is basically, sort of the same.

Here's my Recipe:

Put some eggs in a pot of water. Put the pot onto the stove and turn the fire on. Bring water to a boil and once water is boiled, turn off the heat and wait for water to cool. It would be a BAD idea to reach into the boiling water.

You're going to cut the eggs in half, so be mindful of the amount of eggs that you boil- assuming they all turn out perfect, is going to be doubled, in the end. Do you really want to boil 24 eggs for 48? Decide how many you want or have room for when you bring your dish.

Once the water has cooled, pull egg out, bounce it around on the counter to crack the egg in several places, then try to gently peel away the shell. Once all shells are peeled and some grumbles are made along the way because some eggs didn't want to be separated from their shells and are a complete mess, rinse off the eggs in case any tiny fragments remain.

Then, hold the egg on a flat surface and with a knife, cut the egg in half, the long way. You will know if it's cut the wrong way if the bottom is not the same size as the top.

Carefully pop out the yolk and place it in a separate bowl. Do this with each remaining egg. Place egg whites in an egg container or lay nicely in container with hole side facing up.

If you want to be fancy, you can actually color the egg whites to match your teams colors. The process is here. You can use the recipe listed there, too, if you want, but I prefer no relish. I also don't wait for the eggs to sit for 15 minutes, more like 1, maybe 2.

So now you have all the egg yolks in one bowl, this is what I do next:

Grab some of the miracle whip or mayo that's in your fridge. Grab a hunk of it with a large spoon and throw it into the bowl with egg yolks.  Next, grab some mustard and squeeze the mustard into the same bowl, start with a 2 second squeeze. Next, mix it all together. If it's too dry, add some more mayo. If it's too mayo-y, add another squeeze or two of mustard. Do this until you get the desired consistency and taste.

Once the mixture tastes as desired, grab a plastic gallon baggie. Snip off a small portion at the corner of the bag. Add mixture. Squeeze mixture over the hole in the white yolks. Swirl it until each egg has a pleasing aesthetic look. Last, grab your hidden shaker of paprika, the one that you bought because your mom had one, but you didn't know why you needed it. Open that can and gently shake the can over the eggs, too much paprika and you'll wonder why you took the time to dye the eggs if you were just going to cover it with brownish red powder.

You're finished!

Jalapeno/Banana Pepper Poppers- These are super delicious. When I was pregnant, this was my favorite thing to eat. They are super easy and give you the spicy kick that you need. If you want to make these, you can click here for the recipe. I have also made them with Banana Peppers because I had a ton of them in my garden. They are still flavorful, but are more mild, which is nice when you have children around. 

4. Brownie Peanut Butter Pie- This is one of my favorite desserts, but I don't make it unless I know we will have guests to help eat it because it is so rich and so good. I could eat this all by myself in one, very long day.

The recipe, here, has you use a refrigerated pie crust- which is good, but if you want complete awesomeness, make yourself a graham cracker pie crust.

5. Chocolate Lush- This is pure awesomeness. I don't know if this is the real name, but my Grandma Sue has made this for us forever. It's chocolate, it's cream cheese, it's awesome.

What you need: Refrigerated pie crust or graham cracker crust from above. You're going to need to bake them as instructed. Once cool, mix together chocolate pudding. I have also used butterscotch because my husband doesn't like chocolate.

With a mixer, cream together 1 package of cream cheese, a small container of Cool Whip, and a cup of sugar. You can use powdered sugar, but I like the grainy texture of the sugar.

After the crust has cooled, layer the cream cheese over the bottom. Then add chocolate pudding, and then add a layer of cool whip over the pudding. Sprinkle chocolate chips or butterscotch chips over the top depending on what flavor pudding you used.

6. Cheese Balls- I don't know what it is, but at some point in your life, or at least for me, you're going to love cream cheese. Not only that, you're going to love things mixed with cream cheese. And what's better than things mixed with cream cheese? You've guessed it, being able to dip things in to things made with cream cheese. I don't have one specific recipe, but this link right here, is going to give you a list of 25 recipes for cheese balls. Yum!

So grab a box of crackers, the ingredients to your cheeseball recipe, and share away!

7. Buffalo Chicken Dip-I have only made this dish in a pie pan for my husband and I to eat as dinner. My friends say you can make it in a crockpot which means that it is portable!

If you want it right then and there at home, you can make this as follows: Preheat over to 400.

In a bowl, mix 2 cans of precooked chicken- you can find these next to the tuna. 1/2 cup buffalo sauce- same aisle as regular condiments. 1/2 cup of ranch. 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. 2 packages of cream cheese.

I use my kitchen mixer to blend all the ingredients together. If you want the dip to be spicier, add some more buffalo sauce, creamier, add more ranch.

Once mixed, pour the dip into a pie plate or some other casserole dish that you have. Shred cheddar cheese over the top until covered evenly.

Place dish in oven for 20 minutes or until cheese starts to brown.

Wait for dip to cool and then eat with chips or crackers. In the summer time, we like to slice up some fresh cucumber from the garden and dip it with that. Some other people use celery.

If you want the crock pot recipe, click here.

8. Veggie Pizza- This dish is something that I've always been skeptical about, until I tried it. I mean, it's understandable; when I see a veggie dish at a party, I roll my eyes. But this is something that you shouldn't knock until you've tried it.

So, most of the recipes that I have looked online, want you to add ranch dressing seasoning. If you want to try it that way, then click here.

If you want to try my recipe, this is what you need to do.

Preheat the oven according to the temperature of a package of crescent rolls. 1 package makes about a 5x7 pan. If you want more to bring, buy more cans. Open the package and unroll the crescent rolls- if you buy the pizza dough rolls, this works too and it's less to rearrange to fit into the dish. Layer the dough to a greased oven safe dish and cook the dough as long as it takes to look cooked- usually 7-10 minutes for my oven. You want it to begin browning, but not be burnt or doughy.

Take it out of the oven when it looks pleasing. Set to the side and cool.

In a bowl, mix together a package of cream cheese, a good hunk of mayo- like a 1/2 cup, 1tsp of garlic salt, 1 tsp of dill weed (Probably in your mother's spice cabinet)- 1/4 tsp of pepper. Spread it evenly over cooled roll crust. If you've doubled the dough, double this mix.

Veggies- Broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Cut them up. I like to find the prepackaged bags in the veggie aisle that is on the shelf next to the lettuce that's getting misted because all the ingredients are together. Cut those up into small pieces like you're a pro at doing it. Sprinkle over the dough and mix.

If you're one of those weird people- I mean, if you are someone who likes olives, throw some of those after they've been cut up. If you like mushrooms, do the same. If there is some other veggie that sounds like it might be good that others might also agree upon, throw them on too.

Sprinkle with cheese and cut into slices.

9. Cake Pops- If you like cake, frosting, and chocolate, you'll like Cake Balls. The best part of cake balls is that they are really hard to mess up, unless you don't know how to dip things in chocolate, but even then, it doesn't matter how it looks, only how it tastes, right? They are also very versatile. You can make them with all sorts of flavors. You can make it below, or use this link for pictures and more ideas. 

Ex: Chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, chocolate coating. One of my husbands favorites is carrot cake, cream cheese frosting, white chocolate coating. Lemon cake, white frosting or white cake, lemon frosting, and white chocolate coating. The possibilities are endless.

Bake a chocolate cake mix per instruction on box. Or you can make a cake mix from a box and mix it with a diet soda- less calories, and bake it at the same temp until you can poke it with a tooth pick and nothing comes out.

So, you're cake is baked and it has cooled. Awesome. Now, grab your favorite container of frosting- we have chocolate cake, so lets add chocolate frosting. Mix them both together. You can cut the cake and then put it in a bowl and mix it with frosting, or you could empty the jar of frosting onto the cake and squish it together with clean hands. It doesn't matter how you do it, just make sure your hands are washed and the cake gets mixed really well with frosting. You're going to end up with a cake goo lump in a bowl or dish.

Now you're going to roll this cake goo into little balls and place them on cookie sheets. Once a sheet is filled, place it in the freezer for a 1/2 hours.

Melt some chocolate until it can be easily stirred and looks like a puddle of chocolatey oil. Dip frozen ball of cake into chocolate and place onto the same sheet or a different one. Wait for the chocolate to dry before touching it again.

I've found that using a plastic fork and snapping out the middle to tines makes it easier to dip the balls.

For some reason, white chocolate or any other kind doesn't melt as well, so if you use that kind of chocolate, you have to work quickly.

10. Fruit Pizza- This is also incredibly easy to make, but it can be pricey depending on the season because fruit is expensive.

I usually buy two packages of sugar cookie dough and lay them out onto a greased cookie or pizza sheet until the sheet is evenly covered. Bake at 350 or whatever the temp is on the dough instructions until the dough looks like a golden cookie- not brown because sugar cookies are supposed to be whitish/golden and brown means burnt.

While the cookie cools, mix together a package of cream cheese, a small container of cool whip, and a cup of sugar. You can use powdered sugar for a smoother mix, but I like the grainy texture.  Once cookie has cooled, pour mixture onto cookie and smooth it evenly. 

Add slices of your favorite fruit. I like to line mine out in rows. Usually I add, mandarin oranges, cherries, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries and kiwi. It's your choice of which fruit you like and you can place it on however you like. It's your pizza! 

I've also have seen recipes that used peanut butter cookie dough and they lined it with a peanut butter filling, which is the same as the filling above, they just added peanut butter, and then layered it with bananas and apple 

Keep cool until served. 

     Now, you are ready to try something new or maybe spice your old dish up. No matter what event you're going to, you can use these recipes and they will be a hit.... unless it's somewhere fancy. You might want to try something different if it is. 

      Did you see some of your favorites? Is there something that wasn't here that you think should be mentioned? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Does Your Child Have ADHD? It Isn't the End of the World.

My oldest child and I are alike in so many ways. Often, being alike causes us frustration because we know how to get under each others skin. But because he's a lot like me, I am able to understand a little bit about how he's feeling, what can cause him to get angry, or how to handle a situation so it doesn't blow up in his face. I've been there, I've reacted the same way.

The Last Straw

         A couple of months ago, my son was having a difficult time in school. I was called into the office, one particular afternoon, and while I was there I asked to have a meeting with my son's teacher, the principle, and the social worker who works at the school. I threw down my gauntlet and demanded that things be changed.

The principle got called away for something and when she was gone, I asked the social worker, "Do you think that there is a chance that my son had ADHD or some version of it?" and he said, "I think there's a big possibility that he does." With help from the social worker, we were able to have the school psychologist come in and assess my son. She gave his present teacher, his teacher from last year, his case worker from this year and last, the social worker, and my husband and I a questionnaire to fill out.

From the questionnaire, we found out that he had traits of a child with ADHD and varying degrees of anxiety- probably because he wasn't able to learn the way that a focused child could learn.

Take Action!

Right after we reconvened, we all talked about the next steps. I changed my children's primary care physician to one who would be able to make appointments and specialized in ADHD in children. We met with the physician and she was impressed by how much the school did and our involvement with getting a diagnosis. She didn't have to do an assessment because we had one right there with us from many people who see him everyday. She told us that most children only get one done through their parents and because we did it the way we did with others involved, the questionnaire wasn't biased in anyway. She talked to us about options and recommended that we do medication. She spoke to us about the side effects and what each medicine would do for him.

          She also asked a question that surprised us. She asked, "Do either one of you lean towards ADHD tendencies?"
          My husband looked to me and I raised my hand. "I do."
         "It's very common that children who have ADHD have a parent who also carries that trait. Have you been diagnosed?"
         "You should. I have ADHD, too and there is such a difference when I'm on the medication then when I'm off. I'm more focused and don't forget everything and can finish a sentence without getting distracted."
          "Maybe I can clean my house and it won't look like a hoarder moved in before it's clean because I can actually focus on one task."

If At First You Don't Succeed, Try Again

        So.... We started my son on medication. It has been an extreme ride between convincing my son to take it, trying the different dosages to find one that works, waiting for refill dates to approach, fights with the insurance company to approve a dose that works best, and so on and so forth. We think we've found it, though- the perfect dose. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor questions. One of our biggest fights with our son was trying to get him to take his pill. His gag reflex was in overdrive and the only way that we could get him to take it was to open the capsule and pour it into some applesauce. If we didn't ask her if it was ok, she wouldn't have known it was after researching and our fight for something better would have resumed.

The Results Are Outstanding!

        The teacher says that he's a model student when he takes it. He still participates in class and is still extremely creative. He is still him, but more focused. One of the things that we were afraid would happen is that he would take the medication and then disappear. The doctor and the social worker, who also has ADHD, assured us that medication is different from years ago. It is made now so children don't go bonkers or be plain and boring. It's designed to work with your child's brain so they can focus and that's it. They will still be creative and be themselves. It was a relief to see that it was true. In fact, I think it made my son even more creative because he could focus on the task at hand.

If You Could Make Yourself Better, Wouldn't You?

        Do you remember when I said that my son and I are alike in many ways? It's very true, but there is one thing that is different, besides the fact that I'm 30 and a girl while he's almost 8 and a boy. ADHD is more difficult to diagnose for girls. When I was younger and even in college, I had a tough time remembering to do my homework and also had anger/behavioral issues. I just looked like a bad kid, kind of like how my wonderful son was perceived, but really, those are just common issues with kids with ADHD. My son has a chance to be able to learn and get good grades. He's able to control his frustration with change and gets to be a model student. I didn't have that option because ADHD was still sort of a new concept and a question was never raised about me having it. I recognize it now as I'm older and I watch my son. I used to play house with my pencils and during math, my numbers were assigned genders and I daydreamed all of the time. I never remembered homework until the teacher asked us to turn it in. It took me longer to learn to read than other kids, but once it clicked, I loved to read and I love to write. I still jump around from point to point and when I clean my house, you can't tell because I don't focus on one room, I jump from one task to another. I have to make a point to get working and focus my energy on getting things done. Inviting people to my house is a big motivation.

        Having my child diagnosed with ADHD wasn't the end of the world. It was actually a relief. It gave me some answers and now I know that my child's poor behavior wasn't because I was raising him wrong, it was because of his biology and thankfully, there is something that we can do for him. He's going to be able to learn better and behave better because he's going to be able to focus. He's not going to get frustrated every time a subject is changed or something out of the norm or unexpected happens. He's going to be able to adjust to things and he's going to be able to succeed because he doesn't have the lack of focus holding him back.

       Don't be afraid to advocate for your child. If you suspect that your child has a mental block of any sort, don't be discouraged. Learn about it and start looking for ways to help. Medicating your child doesn't mean that you're a bad parent, and having your child on medication doesn't mean that they are broken or that you've done anything wrong. Biology happens and in my case, I am probably the parent who gave my child that gene, but with support, great things can happen now that we know.

Do you have a child or are you someone who has ADHD or ADD? Did you take medication for it? Did it change your life for the better?