I tried to make a cookie with only three ingredients and….

I tired to make a single three-ingredient cookie and ....I would love to find the perfect three-ingredient cookie recipe. I love simplicity. I love cookies and anything baked. Wouldn’t it be great if the two worked together?

Last weekend I found a recipe for a single peanut butter cookie on Pinterest. Perfect for someone like me who doesn’t want to eat more than one cookie. It was only three ingredients.

It was almost too good to be true.

It was Sunday afternoon, and my husband and son were going down for their afternoon naps. I thought I would try it. If it turned out well, I wouldn’t have to share.

1. Mix:

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of whisked egg

2. Roll into balls, place on cooking sheet and make criss-cross pattern with a fork.

3. Bake for 12-15 minutes (depends on the oven).

Here is the original recipe. (This is a fantastic tutorial with great pics.)

I took some shortcuts here — I used the toaster oven. I didn’t have any creamy peanut butter so I used my husband’s chunky. I put it on foil and let it go.

The original recipe called for 12-15 minutes and I let it cook 12 minutes, which was too long. Yes, it was a little crispy. You could smell the slight tinge of almost-burn wafting in the kitchen. (Although, it wasn’t bad enough to set off the smoke detector, which would have woken up my son. Whew!)

The taste: I ate around the crispy parts and it wasn’t bad. Tasted like cooked peanut butter that was sweetened. Hit the spot for me that afternoon but I wouldn’t serve it to guests.

Seriously, what can you expect from a three-ingredient cookie? There is a reason why some things are more complicated to make.

So here is my shortcut takeaway: Three-ingredient cookies are a quick fix if you need something now. Otherwise, if you are looking for a good shortcut cookie, go to your neighborhood bakery!

P.S. Don’t try this with almond butter, or anything other than peanut butter. Trust me — it does not work at all!

How to save money on diaper disposal bags

petwaste

Here is a way to save a few bucks on diaper disposal bags.

We received a three-pack of Munchkins Arm and Hammer disposable bags for babies at a baby shower. They were great — when we are on the road, we could easily tie up ZJ’s dirty diapers and toss them.

We were running low, and my sister happened to be in town. She owns three mastiffs and had a better idea. Why not buy dog disposal bags instead?

The dog bags were basically the same, and meant for the same purpose: waste removal. They were a little smaller but definitely big enough to handle the messiest of diaper changes.

And here is the kicker: You can often find them cheaper than 3 rolls of bags marketed toward parents.

Ok, yes, these bags are all pretty cheap in and of themselves. But we bought a 10 pack for a few bucks and we’ve been using that same pack for more than a year now.

Sometimes it pays off to stray from the baby aisles!

Ridiculously Easy Meal: Ham and Peas Cheesy Pasta

Ridiculously Easy Recipe: ham, peas and cheese shellsI’ll jump to the point: 15-minute meal and an extremely happy family! This is quickly becoming one of my go-to recipes.

Who doesn’t love cheesy pasta? Mix that with ham and peas and you have a full meal.

Here is the original recipe, found at Dinner, A Love Story. I had to change it up a bit because my husband doesn’t like onions. I also simplified the recipe, cutting out a few steps that would probably make it even tastier.

All you need is:

16 oz small shell pasta. Or any type of pasta that you like.

Frozen peas. About a cup

2-3 Thick slices of Ham (or more): you can buy this packaged or from a deli counter. I recommend buying more ham than you think you need if you like meat in your meals, like we do.

Cheese. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cups of Parmesan, which tastes fantastic. Sometimes we use mozzarella, or whatever we have on hand. Use as much, or as little, cheese to your taste.

Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper flakes, Olive Oil

Optional: Onions

And here is the process:

Ridiculously Easy Ham, Peas, and Cheese Pasta

1. Start boiling your water in a large pot. Cut the ham into small pieces while you wait.

2. Cook pasta as instructed. During the last minute, add the peas.

3. Drain your pasta and peas and let them sit while you return the pot to the stove.

4. You will use a little olive oil, add seasonings, salt pepper etc, and saute your ham a little. (If you use onions, cook those first before you put the ham in.)

5. Return the pasta and peas to your pan. Add cheese to taste.

Voila!

Interested in more Ridiculously Easy Recipes? Click here.

Ridiculously Easy Meal: Ham, Cheese, and Peas Pasta

How I significantly boosted my productivity at work and home, Part 2

How I boosted my productivity, part 2!

I love finding hacks to increase my productivity. It’s all for the sake of spending more time with my family, as well as taking care of myself.

Last week, I wrote a post on how I am increasing my productivity by simply choosing the most difficult tasks first. (You can read this post here.) This was inspired by reading how author and productivity hacker Tim Ferriss hacks his day.

After you choose your most important tasks, Ferriss takes another step: Focus on that task until it’s done.

This is how he describes it (full post here):

6) Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.

7) TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2-3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work.

I’ll be honest: I’m not good at focusing when I am doing something I don’t want to do. It’s easy to surf the web, or find another thing to do, all to avoid the “monster” task.

So I started to block out time to do the hard or undesireable tasks.

Most of the time it doesn’t take 2-3 hours to do what needs to be done. But I allow myself to sit (or stand, or run) with the project until it’s done. If I got distracted, I recognize it and go back to the task at hand.

This goes for work expense and written reports, piles of junk on our buffet cabinet, putting away clean clothes, organizing the front table in our house, etc. Just stay focused. Stop flitting about!

Frankly, I am 10 times more efficient when I focus. I get the task at hand done quicker. I feel better and more accomplished.

Here is where I admit that I don’t do this 100 percent of the time. I am still learning and the temptation to avoid the hard tasks is still there. But I do it more often, and the more often I focus, the easier it gets.

I am learning more about what my priorities are and how to fit them in my day.

In the end, I feel better about my to-do list. Wahoo! So far my favorite hack of the year. Thanks Tim Ferriss!

 

Dinnertime Hack: Frozen garlic

Use frozen garlic when whipping up a quick meal! #dinnerhack
One day a few years ago, I ran across Dorot’s frozen crushed garlic. Cooking with garlic became that much easier, and yes, it changed my world.

It’s perfectly portioned into one-clove cubes. I throw it in almost everything, and no mess to deal with.

I typically buy mine at Trader Joe’s but I’ve seen these in other supermarkets as well. I keep their basil in the freezer too, and recently discovered they have even more spices and sauces!

How I significantly boosted my productivity at work and home, Part 1

Just a few easy steps to be more productive at home and work!

“Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions,” –Tim Ferriss.

One thing you should know is that my to-do list can completely overwhelm me. I want to do everything and usually that means nothing gets done efficiently.

Since ZJ was born, I’ve been particularly challenged because I have half the time to do what I need to do.

After two years of a frustrating never-ending to-do list, it became clear that I needed to learn how to set priorities and follow them. I’ve always understood this concept, but implementing it has been another story.

A few weeks ago I ran across a blog post from Four Hour Work Week author Tim Ferriss. He is the master productivity hacker, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work. I don’t follow all of his advice, but it’s good food for thought.

His post “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me) is a bit dark at points, but contained a few key ideas on how to prioritize. Those key points are starting to revolutionize how I get things done at home and at work.

Ferriss describes his productivity process every day. It’s all one process but I am tackling this in two parts.

Here are the first two steps I started to follow this year: (excerpted from his blog post)

3) Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.

4) For each item, ask yourself:
- “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”
– “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”

There are always projects I would rather not do. Naturally, I procrastinate. They weigh on me and I keep avoiding them. Unknowingly, this process is taking a toll on my productivity, and happiness.

I decided to give this new process a try.

Every morning now I choose 3-5 top priorities from my to-do list for work or home, depending on where I am. Out of those, I really ask the questions: Which task, when completed, will most help me today? Which task am I most afraid of? Which one will calm my anxiety and make me even more productive? Or, will knocking out some mundane work allow me to focus on something more meaningful or fun?

It’s a simple concept but it’s been life changing. I always put off the hard stuff. And now I am forced to face it head on.

Why not get the hard stuff done first? Why not finish the paperwork that’s been sitting on my desk for a week? Or write that report? Or make that phone call? Or go through my son’s closet and box up the clothes he has outgrown? Or have that difficult conversation? Or …

Just identify and handle your monster first thing in the morning and your day will likely be infinitely better!

The next step in Ferriss’s productivity process is to REALLY FOCUS on the task at hand. Pick your monster and then stay with it until it’s completed.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Create a mini diaper emergency kit for your car

Create a mini diaper bag for each car

Diaper bags are a necessary evil: You never know what will happen when you take your baby or toddler out of the house.

We like our bag but it’s just another thing to carry. We bring our diaper bag when we are going out for an extended period of time. But what about short trips to CVS, Target, getting gas or even the neighborhood playground?

It took me way too long to figure out that I could create mini diaper bags for each of our cars that would permanently live in each vehicle.

Baby Bag to go!

Some baby emergency kits contain everything under the sun. However, I went with these four basics:

1. Diapers

2. Wipes, which can be used not only for changing the baby but for wiping him down or cleaning up messes.

3. Disposable diaper changing pad, or something similar to cover the surface you’ll be changing your child.

4. An extra set of clothes. We use old hand-me downs that aren’t a part of our regular rotation.

You could also include a travel-size Vaseline in each bag.

Make a mini diaper bag for each car

I found these bags at the Dollar Spot at Target. Bonus is that he loves Cat in the Hat!

I made identical bags for each car, and now we rarely tote our diaper bag around.

One note of caution: Check up on the contents of your bag every so often. ZJ is at an age where we rarely need to change him on these quick trips. Sometimes these bags are left unused for a month or two. It’s wise to check that your bag has the right size diapers or clothes.

Ridiculously Easy Recipe: Four-ingredient chicken pesto bake

Four Ingredient Chicken Pesto BakeIt’s a new year and I am on the prowl for new, painless dinner recipes. I love to cook but I usually don’t have time to whip up a masterpiece after working all day, and also spend time with my toddler. He actually likes spending time with us right now and I know that won’t last forever!

I ran across this Easy Italian Chicken Bake recipe from Pinning Mama that met my criteria — very few ingredients, easy prep and relatively healthy (depending on how you make it). Our family calls it chicken pesto, though.

Here are the four ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Pesto (I used Trader Joe’s Pesto and Quinoa but any will do.)
  • Tomatoes (I used roma.)
  • Mozzarella cheese .

All you have to do is layer the ingredients in a baking dish. Chicken first, spread with pesto, add sliced tomatoes and top off with cheese.

4 ingredient Pesto Chicken Bake

Bake it at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes (depending on your oven). On the side, you can add almost anything. We usually add veggies in some form. Pasta is also an option. Please visit Pinning Mama’s blog if you want exact recipe quantities and more detailed instructions.

4 ingredient Pesto Chicken Bake

I omitted the tomatoes on part of the dish, to test. It’s definitely better with tomatoes!

4 ingredient Pesto Chicken Bake

I made this for the first time last week and it took about 8-10 minutes of prep because I had to slice the chicken breasts, which were gigantic. That left 30 minutes of cooking, and Zj and I went outside to play on the slide.

Adding more playtime in our busy schedule is a very good thing! Thanks Pinning Mama!

Ridiculously easy meal: Trader Joe’s marinated pot roast

Trader Joe's Marinated Cabernet Pot Roast. Super easy and yummy!

It is pot roast week and I forgot to add pot roast to my husband’s grocery list. (Insert head palm here.) So I ran up to Trader Joe’s for a few other things, and came back with a Cabernet Beef Pot Roast. Pre-marinated.  It looked good.

I always mix my own pot roast marinade. Usually with onion soup, beef broth and other seasonings. Throw it in the crockpot for the day and voila! Still a ridiculously easy meal.

But the Cabernet Beef Pot Roast marinade was good. Very good. And was even less work on my part. I just threw it in the crock pot and it was better than my original.

Looking forward to the leftovers tonight!

My first step at decluttering my son’s toys

A few ways I started to declutter all the toys in our houseIt’s a new year, and if you are on social media, it’s hard to miss that resolutions are in full swing. In my feed, everyone is decluttering. There are so many tips and tricks out there that I am having trouble decluttering the decluttering process!

However, I decided to take some of this advice to heart. ZJ’s toys were taking over our living space to a point where we were all a bit unhappy. I definitely had enough.

I would like to think we have an average number of toys — more than some and less than others. My two-year old was still a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of play choices, and they were poorly organized.

How I started to declutter my son's toys!

Help! I am surrounded!

In addition, we were constantly picking up after him. He does understand how to clean, but we can’t expect him to if there is no clear place where to stow his toys.

Since he is still young, we decided it was a good time to clean out the toys.

Here is what I did:

1. We have a toy storage bench in the living room. It works great but we let the toys flow out and take over the living room. I chose his favorite toys and found a place in the bins. Once the bins were full, that was it (for the most part).

Decluttering toddler toys Decluttering toys!

2. I put the leftover toys in a large plastic tub, and brought it to the basement. We also have a few toys in his room. He gets to enjoy them when we are downstairs or upstairs. Every few weeks, we’ll rotate the toys.

3. We put away the toys he has outgrown, or will soon outgrown, or that I simply didn’t like. This includes very loud electronic toys. These are marked to either be used again if we have another child or to be donated or given away.

This isn’t rocket science and this idea is not new. But in the few days since we did this, I can already see results.

ZJ can more easily focus on his toys. I can see a difference in his play and he has a new interest in toys that he hasn’t touched in a long time.

He is even happier and plays better on his own.

We are all happier that our living room is less cluttered.

Everyone has a different philosophy toward children and toys in the house. I’ve seen minimalism work quite well and I’ve seen families work with toys in every corner of the house. We didn’t go gung-ho with this process and kept a lot. We will regularly assess when a toy needs to leave circulation.

But we will keep out only what we have room for.

This one small step is showing us how curating the toys — even just a little — is working for us. And I got part of my living room back!

I found some good tips in these articles:

From one of my favorite bloggers, Janet Lansbury: Play Space Inspiration

Tame the toys: 5 great ways to manage the messes