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Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper – Even Better Than the Original

I hate to admit this, but I really like Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper. It’s so cheesy and salty and gooey. And it reminds me of being a kid. And it’s easy and cheap. And sometimes I’m lazy and cheap.

But I hate buying processed food. It’s really not that good tasting, and it’s really not that good for you. The boxes are full of sodium and artificial flavors and colors. They usually don’t contain much in the way of fiber or nutrients. So, I like to cook from scratch as much as possible.

However, sometimes I still crave some particular packaged, processed food that I am especially fond of, like Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper. (I’m not alone on this, right, guys?) That’s why I was intrigued by this pin:

hamhelppin

It’s from the Daily Unadventures in Cooking blog. Visit this terrific blog for the recipe.

The recipe calls for ground beef, milk and pasta. We used the extra lean ground beef, skim milk and SmartTaste pasta, which is whole grain, to make the recipe as healthy as possible. The recipe also calls for hot smoked paprika. I didn’t have that, so we used regular paprika and a pinch of hot pepper. Here are all the ingredients I used.

hamhelping

The instructions said to use a Dutch oven, but I chose to cook everything except the pasta in a large skillet.

hamhelpcook

Because we used lean ground beef, we didn’t have as much fat left over as the recipe asked for, so we had to add some. We added about one third butter and two thirds olive oil.  Finishing it was easy enough.  We used two different types of pastas that we had left over – penne and egg noodles. They worked together well, but many pastas would work with this recipe.

hamhelpcooked

We didn’t add salt, but let everyone salt it to their tastes.

hamhelpserve

This recipe knocked it out of the park. The photo cannot reflect how delectable the dish is. Both the taste and texture is superior to Hamburger Helper. Even heated up the next day, it wasn’t dry and bland.

But heed my warning: You will eat too much of this! This homemade Hamburger Helper is wonderfully cheesy, gooey warm comfort food that is not bad for you, so it’s super addictive. I couldn’t stop myself!

Do you have a processed food that you love? Do you have a homemade version? Leave a comment to let us know.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Minute to Win It Game Night – Winter Time Fun!

Last weekend we had planned to go tubing, but the tubing park was not open (despite the fact that we seem to have plenty of snow and it is freezing). It was the end of my two weeks of vacation from work and also the end of my children’s winter break. We wanted to have some fun!

This pin gave me some inspiration:

minutetopin

My kids love Minute to Win it, and the website has tons of excellent games that you can play with props that you have around the house or that you can get from the dollar store. I went to the Minute to Win It website and selected six games for us to play.

We created a chart to score the games. We gave one point to anyone who completed the game within the one minute time period and another point to the person who finished the task in the shortest time.

The six games we selected were:

A Bit Dicey: Put a popsicle stick in your mouth and balance six dice on it.

Bottoms Up: Players stand in the middle of four empty pop cans with a yo-yo hanging from the back of a belt around their waist; they use the yo-yo to knock over the cans.

Breakfast Scramble: Assemble the front of a cereal box that has been cut into 16 even pieces.

Face the Cookie: Using only your face, move an Oreo from your forehead to your mouth.

Egg Roll: Move four eggs across the floor and into a target area by fanning the eggs with an empty pizza box.

Defying Gravity: Tap three air-filled balloons to keep them off the ground.

Chocolate Unicorn: While leaning back, stack seven chocolate snack cakes on your forehead.

We invited a couple of friends, made lasagna, and Let the Games Begin!

First up was A Bit Dicey. About half the contestants were able to stack the dice. My daughter Kaelin was first up:

dicey

Bottoms Up was fairly easy. Everyone was able to finish in the 60 seconds. Our friend Courtney finishes the challenge:

Bottoms

Being one of the last to play was a definite advantage when playing Breakfast Scramble. Thank goodness I waited!

breakfast

Face the Cookies was difficult. The only person able to complete it was my daughter Kaelin. She finished it in two seconds by basically flicking it into her mouth. The rest of us failed miserably. But, we got to eat Oreos, which redeemed this challenge.

Chocolate Unicorn was also a favorite because it involved delicious chocolate baked goods. Fortunately, though still difficult, it was easier than the Oreo game. Our friend Kelsie succeeded marvelously.

chocolate

We had to cancel Egg Roll because first of all, we found that no one was going to be able to get four eggs into the target in a minute. Secondly, the one egg we decided to use broke. So if you’re going to try this one, hard boil the egg. My son’s forceful use of the pizza carton was just no match for the fragile egg.

eggroll

Love the action hair!

Next up: Defying gravity. This challenge was something that was hit or miss with the contestants. A few were able to accomplish it, but many went down in defeat (including me, unfortunately).

My son Austin was the champion with eight points, but the scores were very close. The beauty of the games was that everyone specialized in something.

We all had a great time. Next time you’re bored and looking for something fun to do, try Minute to Win It!

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Sunday Funnies

, Everyone has either gone back to work after some time off, or, like me, is getting ready to tomorrow. (Boo!) So we really need a laugh. Fortunately, Pinterest delivered again this week.

And, if you’re like me, as 2013 starts, you’re thinking about losing some weight and looking better. There’s nothing like weight, fashion, and our looks to get a laugh or two (or many more).

While I worry about my weight, some people are, in my opinion, way to comfortable with their bodies. This pin is for them:

notpants

This warning should especially appear in the flesh-colored tights. It could have saved our eyes from this (from the People of Walmart website).

skintights

Though a little extra weight can sometimes be functional.

walmartbutt

I feel the worst in a bathing suit. It shows every bump and ripple.

fatseal

I’m also so white, I blind people.

irishsun

How did they get my picture?

Speaking of which:

taggedphoto

Currently on my brother’s Facebook, he has a tagged photo of me from the 90s in which I am wearing a Jane Fonda spandex outfit while holding a small sombrero on a cat. Seriously. I’m not even making that up. It’s horrible.

It could be worse. I could think this looks good:

baldhair

Don’t you wish that cameras weren’t invented sometimes? Well, at least when they’re pointed at you, right?

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Product Review: Auto-Off Surge Protector

surgepropin

Living in a home with a husband, teen son, and preteen daughter, you know I have a house full of electronics – TVs, computers, laptops, video game systems, cell phones… I could go on. All of these really suck up the electricity.

I hate to waste electricity. But that’s exactly what happens when TV, DVD players and video game systems are left plugged in all the time. The technical term is standby power, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that in the U.S. standby power wastes at least $4 billion every year. Due to the increase in electronic devices, the amount of wasted power is still growing.

Manufacturers are starting to use technology to solve this problem, but until then, there’s a way to reduce the energy we use and save money on our electric bills: Auto-Off Surge Protectors.

One we use and love is the Belkin Conserve Smart AV.  We plug our TV in the master plug and then the DVD player and video gaming systems go in the master controlled plugs. When the TV is turned off, all of the electronics turn off and stop eating up electricity. It also has plugs that aren’t controlled by the TV in case you have a cable box, lamp or other appliance that you don’t want to turn off with the TV.

So, family, bring on your electronics! I’ll save the earth and money, too, with my Auto-Off Surge Protector.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Crockpot Mac and Cheese – Easy and Delicious

It is chilly here in Ohio! When it’s cold, snowy and dark by 5 p.m., like it is now, it makes me want to do the human version of hibernating – eat comfort food while snuggled under a fluffy blanket. And maybe take a nap.

My whole family is feeling the same way, especially my son whose favorite food is macaroni and cheese. That’s why this pin was irresistible:

crockpotmacpin

This recipe is from the Tip Garden blog.

Here are the instructions:

Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese

  • Cooking oil spray
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups preshredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • Spray the pot of the slow cooker or if using a liner bag, spray the bag well.  In a mixing bowl whisk together milk, evaporated milk, egg, salt and pepper. Pour milk mixture into the crockpot.  Add cheese and uncooked macaroni. Stir gently to mix.
  • Turn slow cooker on low and cook 3-4 hours, or until the custard is set and the macaroni is tender.  (Do not cook more than 4 hours, or the sides will begin to dry out).  Serve at once.

Best of all, this crockpot recipe is my favorite kind – dump all the ingredients in the crockpot and turn it on. No precooking noodles or sauces!

Here are the ingredients:

crockpotmacingred

The only advance prep is mixing the liquids together.

crockpotmacsauce

Then, into the crockpot it all goes.

crockpotmaccook

The macaroni and cheese was cooked to perfection in three hours. Unfortunately, my family got to the dish before I could take a pic. But I was able to capture the last few bites before they were gone.

crockpotmacdone

This macaroni and cheese was excellent – thick, creamy, and cheesy. I know this is going to be a family favorite. My son, our macaroni and cheese connoisseur, gave it a big thumbs up.

Next chilly night, make the family happy and cook up a pot of macaroni and cheese.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Makeup Brush Cleaner – Easy and Works Great!

It’s that time of year when everyone is thinking of cleaning and organizing. So I caught the bug and started looking around my house for where dirt and germs were lurking.

It didn’t take long to find some on my makeup brushes. Embarrassingly, I can’t remember the last time I cleaned them. This pin came to my rescue:

makeupbrushespin

This comes from the Daily Quirk blog.

Here are the instructions:

  • Mix 1 cup of warm water, 1 tablespoon of liquid dish detergent and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup.
  • Dip the brushes in one by one and give them a good swirl around the cup.
  • Rinse them under lukewarm tap water, reshape and lay flat to dry on a rag overnight.

Here are the wonderfully inexpensive ingredients and my nasty brushes:

makeupsolutioningred

Here’s what the ingredients looked like mixed in a glass jar. I used warm water instead of lukewarm because I didn’t read the instructions carefully. (Don’t worry, it worked marvelously!)

makeupsolutionbefore

That’s the before. Here’s the after:

makeupsolutionafter

Yuck! You can see all the makeup that the cleaner removed. It was simple, too. I just swished each brush around for a minute or so and rinsed. Here are the brushes after cleaning and drying overnight.

makeupbrushes

Don’t they look great? No vinegar smell was left, either.

So, ladies, pull out those dirty brushes and get cleaning! Or, you gentlemen, clean your wife’s brushes as a wonderful surprise.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Sunday Funnies

Another funny week on Pinterest! Was the 14th century as funny as it is in 2012? I doubt it. Why? Modern technology has allowed us to accomplish more, and look more idiotic doing so. Case in point:

subway butt

From the Ellen DeGeneres show.

Holding on to a subway pole with your butt? Technically I guess you could have attempted something similar with a horse when that was the mode of transportation, but it wouldn’t be as noticeable or hilarious. (Maybe we should be congratulating her on her innovative use of body parts. This pose does help her hold her purse better. Ha!)

The Internet has opened up a whole new world of mockery. Like this:

facebookers

From The Meta Picture blog.

Did you find yourself – and everyone of your Facebook friends? It’s funny ’cause it’s true. Makes me want to remake the graphic with pics of my friends.

How about amusement parks? What we do to ourselves for fun! Then we allow the operators to take pics of us being amused/tormented. That’s why I love this:

rollercoasterpics

From the 9GAG blog.

I give their use of props a 10! I have to do this next time I’m at Cedar Point or Disneyworld.

And the things we do with our bodies! How about this?:

nutellaface

From a tumblr blog.

Oh, my goodness! She does look like she put Nutella on her face. Spray tans, gages, piercings, plastic surgery… I know they did some body modification way back when, but we just kicked it up a notch.

Technology gives us new ways to terrorize our children. (Don’t judge me; you know you do it, too!) My husband would totally do this:

mothdad

From the Tastefully Offensive blog.

Our children torture us with technology all the time. Their phones have become like an extra appendage. (Don’t believe me? Try taking their phone away for any length of time and they’ll give off an eerie scream similar to what Civil War soldiers made when their limbs were cut off without anesthesia.)

Albert Einstein was right:

einsteinday

Fortunately, my kids aren’t idiots… yet!

Have a great week, and until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Product Review: 12-volt A23 Battery = $40 of Button Cell Batteries

batterypin

The $40 Hidden Inside a 12V Battery

It seems almost every toy we have for our children or gadget for ourselves requires batteries. And we need them in all shapes and sizes. Small electronic devices such as keyless vehicle entry systems, home security systems, garage door openers, and Bluetooth headsets commonly use the 12-volt A23 dry cell-type battery (also known as 8LR932, 8LR23, GP23A, MN21, 23AE or ANSI-1181A). Then there are those small gadgets like laser pointers, keychain flashlights, and little toys that make sounds, move and/or light up when you squeeze them, which typically use the 1.5-volt LR932 alkaline button cells.

laserPoint_batteries

The cost of batteries varies as much as the size, shape and voltage of the batteries themselves. When the battery in your garage door opener needs replaced, you can purchase a 2-pack of Energizer’s A23 batteries for an average cost of $1.88. Unfortunately, the typical laser pointer uses 3 LR932 batteries, which cost an average of $5 each. If you’re like most people, you usually opt to replace the gadget itself rather than its batteries, because it’s actually cheaper. I realize this doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it is.

Now for the amazing part… Did you know that each A23 is constructed of eight individual LR932 alkaline button cells? Furthermore, using a small screwdriver you can peel away the outer housing of the A23 (there’s a split in the label/housing) revealing a piece of paper. Inside that paper you’ll find a stack of eight 1.5-volt LR932 button cells which may be separated and used individually. That’s a $40 value inside each A23 battery.

So, the next time you find yourself needing 1.5-volt LR923 button cells, remember that an investment of less than $2.00 for a 2-pack of A23 Energizer batteries will provide you with $80 worth of replacement cells.

Note: This is an easy hack that takes less than a minute to do. While most online descriptions caution that you must use the Energizer brand A23 12-volt battery. However, some people have claimed that Duracell’s MN 21/23 12-volt battery also contains 8 individual 1.5-volt LR932 alkaline button cells.

(Today’s blog entry is authored by my husband Kenn. Thanks, honey!)

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Chocolate Brownie Cupcake with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Icing – Rich and Yummy!

I have to admit that I am a sweets-aholic. That’s why this pin was too hard to resist.

browncuppin

Looks so good, am I right?

It comes from the Cooking Classy blog. Here are the instructions:

Brownie Cupcakes with Cookie Dough Frosting

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp milk
Cookie Dough Frosting
  • 10 Tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 2-3 Tbsp cream or half and half
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, light-brown sugar and cocoa powder. Pour in melted butter and use a wood spoon to stir until combine. Mix in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in milk. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combine (batter will be thick).
  • Divide batter among 12 paper lined muffin cups filling each about 2/3 full (about 1/4 cup batter in each). Bake in preheated oven 16 – 20 minutes (lesser for gooier brownies). Allow to cool in muffin tin several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely then frost with Cookie Dough Frosting. Store in an airtight container.
Cookie Dough Frosting
  • In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whip together butter and light-brown sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Mix in flour then add powdered sugar, vanilla, molasses and 2 Tbsp cream and blend together until smooth adding an additional 1 Tbsp of cream to thin if desired. Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Note that if you want a pipe-able frosting you will have to leave the chocolate chips out then simply add some of them to the top for garnish, otherwise they’ll just get clogged in the piping tips.

Here are the ingredients gathered.

browniecupingred

Here are all the dry ingredients mixed.

browniecupdry

When you add the wet ingredients, the batter is very thick.

browniecupmix

Here they are ready to go into the oven…

browniecupoven

And once they are done. Yum!

browniecupdone

Now on to the icing. The one modification I had to make was adding extra milk to thin the icing. But, don’t make it too thin; the thickness allows you to heap up the icing on top. Here is the icing with the chocolate chips ready to mix in.

browniecupicingchips

Now my daughter is ready to eat!

browniecupkaelin

These cupcakes are extremely rich and taste more like a brownie than a cupcake. Delicious! My daughter and I thought the icing was terrific. It tasted like eating cookie dough. Plus the recipe contains no eggs, so it’s safe to eat. Sugar and chocolate overload. I love it!

They look fabulous, too. When you show people these cupcakes, the first thing they do is give a delighted, “Ooooooo.” I would recommend serving them next time you have guests, for the wow factor.

browniecupfancy

The frosting recipe makes more than enough to ice the cupcakes, so you can really pile it on to give it that amazing appearance you see in the photo. The cupcake is really rich and so is the icing, and you  may decide to use less icing per cupcake if you want something less rich.

My son and husband didn’t like the icing. (There’s no accounting for some people’s tastes.) But my daughter, father and I all gave it a big thumbs up.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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Beachy Wave Hair Bomb

I have curly hair. I mean I really have curly hair. If I don’t style my hair or use any products and let it dry on its own, I look like a freaky grown up frizzy version of little Bo Peep, with wispy ringlets all over. I guess it was adorable as a child. Not so much as an adult.

If I use heavy duty product and blow dry and fluff it, I can easily produce a mini white person afro. Not pretty either, but I rocked the eighties.

Given the natural inclinations of my hair, I know I should avoid hair pins, but the ladies always look so lovely, and so it’s a siren song I’m unable to avoid.

I love the beachy wave look, but I’ve never been able to achieve it. So, I thought I would give this pin a try.

beachywavepin

It’s from Oh So Pretty, the Diaries blog.

Here are the instructions:

  • Split all of your hair into two parts and then braid each part and secure with a hair tie of your choosing. I found that the “waves” ended up looking better with bigger braids.
  • Take one of the braids and twist it tightly away from your face.
  • Place the straightener around the twisted braid and instead of just pulling the straightener down, twist the straightener in the same direction the hair is twisted. I started at the top and worked my way down the braid. Make sure you don’t put the straightener where your hair tie is or else there will be a weird crease.
  • Repeat the twisting and straightening step one more time on each braid just to be sure. When your hair has completely cooled, pull out your hair ties and run your fingers through the braids to release them.

I started on a day when I had straight hair like this style required. (I had straightened it the day before.) I put it in two braids.

beachybraids

See, look at that frizz! (And, I could have used some makeup. Geesh!)

I twisted the braids away from my face and then used the straightener, twisting in the same direction I twisted the braid.

beachytwist

Then I waited until the braids completely cooled. The cooling process took quite some time. So if you are going somewhere, leave yourself plenty of time (at least an hour). Then I took the braids out to reveal my beautiful beachy waves.

beachyfail

Or not.

Major failure.

I don’t think I have the texture or the length to make this work. But check out the results that the original poster got.

beachywin

There was no time to redo my hair because I was on a tight time schedule, so I just threw it back in a ponytail.

beachyponytail

I didn’t think it was so bad, but a few hours later my daughter looked at me in horror and said, “WHAT is wrong with your haaa-rrah?? It is so fah-riz-reeehhh!” Leave it to a 12-year-old to notice something you are specifically hoping no one will notice.

Let me know if anyone has greater success with this.

Until next time, happy pinning!

Shelly

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