Make Dinner A Snap With A Slow Cooker

If you’re looking for a way to prepare simple, affordable meals at home, there’s one tool that’s a must-have in your kitchen: a slow cooker.

Using a slow cooker is a convenient way to prepare a mouth-watering meal with minimum effort. Just put all the ingredients in, set the desired cook time and get on with your day. Make fall-off-the-bone pork ribs, a soul-warming beef stew, chili con queso, juicy, tender barbecue chicken or even dessert! The options are endless.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of using a slow cooker to prepare a meal is the easy cleanup. You won’t need to fill your sink with pots and pans to clean after dinner. Just take out the removable crock for quick and easy cleanup.

As with any kitchen tool, there are a number of options, from basic to high-tech, but even the most basic slow cookers can prepare a delicious meal. If you don’t already own one, buying a slow cooker isn’t a big investment—you can pick one up for under $40.

Get the most out of your slow cooker with these tips:

Plan ahead. Slow cooker meals are perfect for days when you’re running short on time and need a healthy “fast food” option. Prepare your meal the night before, put all the ingredients in the crock of your slow cooker, cover it and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, simply pull it out and set your slow cooker to the correct heat level.

To save even more time, plan and prep multiple meals at once, bag the ingredients and freeze them. When you’re short on time, just pull a freezer meal out, dump it into the slow cooker and walk away. In six to eight hours, you’ll have a meal that would make anyone think you’d been working in the kitchen all day.

Trim the fat. If you’re preparing a fatty cut of meat, trim most or all of the fat before putting it in your slow cooker to avoid a pool of grease in your food. To keep meat moist while it’s cooking, add a bit of beef or chicken stock. Just remember that liquid won’t evaporate like it would in the oven or on the stove top, so reduce any liquid in the recipe by about a third, or just enough to cover the contents of your slow cooker.

Go slow. If you’ve got the time, set your slow cooker on low and let the food gently cook over eight to ten hours. The slower your meal cooks, the more flavorful, juicy and tender it will be.

Simplify cleanup. To make cleanup even easier, purchase disposable slow cooker liners. Then all you’ll have to do is remove the liner, toss it in the trash and cleanup is done!

Ready to make an easy dinner? Pick up a slow cooker cookbook, look up some slow cooker recipes online or try this delicious chicken recipe.

Jalapeno Chicken Breasts


6 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup sliced pickled jalapeno chile pepper, drained
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1 8-oz. package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened and cut into cubes
2 slices regular bacon or turkey bacon, crisp-cooked, drained and crumbled (optional)


Sprinkle chicken with chili powder and salt. Arrange chicken, bone sides down, in a 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour broth and lemon juice around chicken. Top with drained jalapeno pepper.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer chicken and jalapeno pepper to a serving platter, reserving cooking liquid. Cover chicken and keep warm.

If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. For sauce, in a small bowl, combine cornstarch and the water and stir into cooking liquid. Add cream cheese, whisking until combined. Cover and cook about 15 minutes more or until thickened. Serve chicken with sauce. If desired, sprinkle with bacon.



Five Tips Tor The Perfect Fall Dinner Party

Fall is near; we can feel it in the air! And there’s nothing quite like fall—the crisp morning breeze, the changing colors, and of course, football.

Fall is also one of our favorite seasons for hosting gatherings with family and friends—whether it’s to celebrate a holiday, to watch a big game or just to relax and enjoy time with loved ones.

Are you planning a fall dinner party or gathering? Here are a few ideas for your next party.

Have confidence in your cooking. A dinner party is the perfect occasion to try new dishes, but be sure to give new recipes a practice go-around a few days ahead of your party so you’ll have time to tweak the menu if the recipe doesn’t turn out quite right. Being confident in your cooking will reduce stress the day of your event.

Go seasonal. Take advantage of the foods that are in season during the fall season and plan your menu around those foods. Here a few delicious fall recipes you might want to try:
 Cranberry Ginger Tea
 Mushroom and Brie Bruschetta
 Pomegranate Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
 Roasted Butternut Squash
 Pumpkin and Turnip Green Lasagna
 Grilled Pork Chops with Apple-Bourbon Glaze
 Apple Pecan Carrot Cake

Bring in the colors. The colors of fall are simply stunning, and by bringing in a touch of nature with fall flowers, you can create a gorgeous centerpiece and decorations. Shop the floral section at your local grocery store for mums and sunflowers, and pull in feathers and dried wheat for the perfect fall touch.

Get festive with favors. Put the final touches on your party by sending guests home with a festive fall treat. Caramel apples or flavored popcorn balls wrapped and tied neatly make an affordable, tasty gift for guests.

Plan ahead. No matter the occasion, be sure to plan ahead so you won’t be scrambling the day of the party to get decorations out and prepare your menu. Set your table ahead of time, prepare favors and prep any food that can be made ahead of time to save yourself stress the day of.

What are some of your favorite ideas for a fall dinner party?

10 Tips To Prepare Your Home For Fall

Let’s face it—summertime is not the best time of the year to work on projects around the house. Not only does the sweltering heat make it miserable outside, but you’d probably rather be spending your time with your grandchildren while they’re out of school and maybe even taking a vacation (or two).

Now that fall is approaching, it’s time to turn your focus to the home maintenance checklist that may have been on your back burner this summer. Be sure your home is ready for cooler weather with this checklist.

  • Check windows and doors for gaps or cracks, and seal any leaks with weather stripping and/or caulk. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, sealing leaks around your home can save up to 10 percent on your heating and cooling bill.
  • Check your heating system to make sure it will be in tip-top shape when it’s time to turn it on. Whether your heater is gas or electric, it’s a good idea to have it checked by a professional once a year. 
  • Schedule a chimney sweep to come clean out your fireplace and chimney of any soot or creosote build-up. Even if you don’t use your fireplace often, any build-up is dangerous, as it can be flammable and cause serious problems. Birds also like to nest in chimneys, so be sure it’s all clean and clear in there before you light the first logs this winter.
  • Inspect sidewalks, outdoor steps and your driveway for any cracks or hazards that may need to be repaired. Small cracks can be a DIY repair, but larger cracks may require professional repairs. 
  • Check your roof for damaged shingles, leaky vents or corroded flashing. Do this from the ground using binoculars, or call in a pro to climb on your roof and give it a thorough inspection. 
  • Replace air filters in your vents and clean plates or pads in your humidifier. 
  • Clean out gutters. Clogged gutters can cause big problems when it rains, so be sure yours are clear of debris and take some time to cover them with mesh guard to keep the leaves out this fall. 
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries. 
  • Check the indicator on the pressure gauge of your fire extinguisher to be sure it’s charged. Inspect the nozzle for any dents, scratches or corrosion, and make sure the lock pin is firmly in place. 
  • Make time for some fall cleaning and clear out any clutter that may have accumulated over the summer. Be sure the space around your heater or furnace is clear of papers and other potential flammables.

Home maintenance projects aren’t always fun, but they are necessary to be sure your home remains a safe, inviting environment for yourself and your loved ones. If you are uncomfortable performing any of these maintenance tasks on your own, call in a professional to help ensure they are done right.

Tips To Throwing A Memorable Labor Day Party

For more than 120 years, Labor Day has been celebrated as a U.S. holiday—a day to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. Although some municipalities were celebrating Labor Day as early as 1885, Congress did not declare it a legal holiday until 1894. Labor Day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Labor Day is a day to gather with family and friends. Celebrate Labor Day this year with these tips and ideas.

Potluck Dinner: Invite guests to bring a favorite side dish to share. Make things a little bit more fun by incorporating recipe-sharing into your potluck. To do this, ask guests to bring a recipe card with the recipe on it and place it on the table next to their dish. Provide blank recipe cards and pens for guests to write down recipes they’d like to take home.

Farmers Market Dinner: Prepare a dinner made with foods from your local farmers market. Not only will you have a meal full of fresh, seasonal foods, but you’ll also be supporting local farmers. Pick up some fresh blackberries and treat guests to this delicious blackberry crisp

Host an Outdoor Movie Night: All you need is a white sheet and a projector, and you can set up your own movie theater under the stars. Outdoor movies are especially fun for the kids.

Visit a Local Park: Pack a picnic for you and a friend and go for a walk or hike at a nearby park. Take in the sights and breathe in the fresh air. Do you enjoy bird watching? Don’t forget to pack your binoculars!

Take in a Baseball Game: Baseball is, after all, our nation’s favorite pastime, so why not celebrate Labor Day at the ballpark? If you are spending the day with your grandchildren, a baseball game makes a fun Labor Day celebration. Tickets to minor league games are less expensive than major league games, so going to a baseball game doesn’t have to break the bank. Food and drinks are also more affordable at minor league games, so grab an all-American hotdog and enjoy the game.

No matter how you choose to celebrate this year, be sure to take some time to reflect on the hard work it took to make our country great.

5 Tips For Late Summer Gardening

We’re in the midst of the hottest month of the year, and if you love gardening, you’re probably focused simply on keeping your plants watered in this extreme heat. But gardeners should always be looking forward to what’s next for their plants. What should you do for your plants today to ensure they thrive the coming months?

Here are some pro gardening tips to transition your plants out of summer and into fall.

Keep plants watered, but not too much. Be sure to point your water hose at the base of your plants, rather than watering all of the ground around them. Surface watering will encourage the roots to stay shallow and close to the surface rather than rooting deep below the plant. Look for signs of stress from lack of water in potted plants. Any plants grown in pots may require more frequent watering. Hanging baskets will dry out even faster than potted plants.

Trim back your plants for more growth. Pruning can be hard to do when you simply want to enjoy the fruits of your labor, but by keeping your plants pruned and trimmed, you’ll actually encourage more growth. Stalk tall flowers and remove dead flower stalks.

Clean out any dead or fallen leaves or blooms. Keep the soil around your plants clear of any dead leaves or blooms, as these can harbor disease that will quickly consume your live plants. Pick up and discard fallen fruit to prevent pests on your fruit trees. Thinning out thick, full plants to allow for more circulation can also discourage disease from spreading among your plants.

Pick your produce regularly to encourage more production. Summer squash, zucchini, basil and many other herbs, fruits and vegetables will produce more if you keep your bounty picked.

Use fertilizers high in potassium. Look for fertilizers that contain high amounts of potassium, which will encourage your plants to grow even larger fruits and vegetables. For an inexpensive and organic fertilizer, try rabbit food. It is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. Sprinkle rabbit pellets around your plants as fertilizer.

You’ve worked hard all summer to grow your garden, and with these simple tips, you can keep your garden blossoming for months to come. If you want to enjoy the beauty of your garden indoors, try gathering and tying herbs and flowers upside-down for drying. 

Scrapbooking For Beginners

Why scrapbook? Whether you’re the crafty type or not, scrapbooking has its benefits for anyone willing to give it a try. Thinking about scrapbooking but not sure where to start, or if scrapbooking is even for you?

Let’s tackle some of the most common questions (and hesitations) about scrapbooking.

Why you should start scrapbooking

It is certainly convenient to be able to store all of your photos on your phone or digital device, but let’s face it—some memories deserve more. Creating a scrapbook of your travels, hobbies and faces of the ones you love most is truly a special way to remember some of the best moments in life. Here are a few of the reasons you should start scrapbooking:

  • Scrapbooking not only creates a nice “home” for some of your favorite photos and memories, but it allows you to be more organized, which means you’ll actually be able to find those pictures next time you’re looking for them, rather than having to scroll through hundreds (or thousands!) of images on your digital device.
  • Scrapbooking allows you to express your creativity and unique taste. One of the first rules of scrapbooking is that there are no rules! They are your memories and you can make your scrapbook look however you want. No matter how “crafty” you think you are, there’s just something special about sitting down and creating something.
  • Scrapbooking is relaxing. For some, scrapbooking is an activity they enjoy with friends, while others prefer to scrapbook in solitude. However you do it, scrapbooking is a great way to release stress and simply relax.
  • Most importantly, scrapbooking encourages reflection and gratitude. When you look back over the scrapbook you’ve created, you’ll remember places, people, conversations and experiences you may have forgotten. Scrapbooking is a great way to reflect on the happy times and the moments in life that shaped you.

If you’re ready to give scrapbooking a try, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Select your photos. This can be the most time-consuming part of scrapbooking, especially if you have a lot of photos to sort through. Take some time to sift through your pictures and organize them as much as possible by date or event. Now’s also the time to toss any photos you don’t want (or need) to keep.  If the pictures you choose are on a digital device, print them at home or send them to your nearest photo center to be printed.

2. Choose your paper. If you don’t have scrapbooking paper on hand, you’ll need to pick some up at a craft store. Choose a mix of patterned papers and solid colors. You can go with one theme for your whole scrapbook, or choose different themes for the different pages or sections of your scrapbook. The solid paper you choose will work well as a mat, or frame, for each individual photo on a page. Matting your photos will help them stand out on the page.

3. Arrange your page. Play with different arrangements of photos, text or embellishments (which can also be found in the scrapbooking aisle of any craft store) on your page. As a rule of thumb, stick to two to four pictures per page.

4. Write your memories. Your scrapbook should tell a story, so take some time to journal your memories with a few sentences—or even a short paragraph or two—to include on the page. The “journal” portion of your scrapbook can be handwritten or typed. It’s simply a matter of preference.

Need some ideas or inspiration for your scrapbook? Search Pinterest for scrapbooking ideas, or take some tips from Martha Stewart.

Remember: Your scrapbook is your own, so let your creativity come to life!

Fun Ideas For Camp Care Packages

Summer camp season is in full swing! Are your grandchildren off on camp adventures, making new friends, exploring new skills and enjoying some time away from home?

While camp is something most kids look forward to, being away from home—whether for a few days or a few weeks—can cause a little homesickness for kids, whether they’ll admit it or not. Why not take some time to let your grandchildren know you’re thinking of them while they’re away at camp by sending a little care package?

First, here are a few tips before you send your grandchild a care package.

• Check with the camp admin to find out if you can purchase a care package directly through them, which camp staff will assemble and deliver to your grandchild. If so, this is a convenient option, and you’ll know that everything in the care package meets camp rules and regulations.

• If not sending a care package directly through the camp, check into any guidelines for what can and cannot be included in care packages to campers. Some camps will allow parents and grandparents to send food items while other camps have strict rules against food in cabins (you wouldn’t want your care package to attract any bears, after all!)

Care Package Ideas

If you’re sending a care package to a granddaughter, here are a few things to consider:

• A book
• A coloring book and colored pencils/crayons/markers (depending on her age)
• A new towel and washcloth
• A journal and pen
• A package of new socks
• Personal care items like lotion, chapstick, etc.
• A small puzzle or deck of cards

If you’re sending a care package to a grandson, he might enjoy some of these items:

* A small foam ball or Frisbee
• A new t-shirt
• A new pair of underwear and/or socks
• Personal care items like deodorant, toothpaste, chapstick, etc.
• A small game or deck of cards
• A book or magazine

A few other ideas that any child will enjoy:

• A new memory card for his/her digital camera (or a disposable camera)
• A water bottle
• Homemade treats (if allowed)
• A handwritten letter letting him/her know they are missed
• A new set of pajamas
• A piece of home, such as a favorite stuffed animal or a family photo

Keep in mind that whatever you send should be intended to lift the child’s spirits—for some children, a family photo, for example, may make them even more homesick. When in doubt, confer with your grandchild’s parents before shipping a care package off to camp.

7 Ways To Decorate Your Door For Summer

Need some creative ideas to decorate your front door as you await the fall and winter holiday seasons? Why not celebrate summer with some bright and cheerful door decorations?

Here are seven of our favorite ways you can decorate your door this summer:

Repurpose an old watering can into a flowerpot. Place floral foam inside the can and create an arrangement with your favorite summer blooms. If you don’t want to mess with real flowers, pick up some artificial stems at an area craft store, and they’ll stay bright and colorful all summer long!

Find a twig wreath at a craft store and add some color by hot-gluing the blooms of artificial flowers to it. Tiny, vibrant blooms will work best for this project.

Burlap wreaths are all the rage right now, and they’re easy enough to make on your own. (Click here to watch a quick tutorial video.) Once the burlap is threaded through the wreath, add some bright ribbon bows to add a little cheer to your wreath. If you aren’t feeling all that crafty, pre-made burlap wreaths are easy to find at local craft fairs and trade days.

A hand-painted wooden mason jar-shaped door hanger is sweet, summery and oh-so-southern. Decorate it how you like with a monogram or a cute summer saying, like the one on this door hanger: “Southern Living… Where the tea is sweet, our words are long, the days are warm and our faith is strong.”

Take your summer door wreath to the next level with a playful flip flop wreath. Here is a tutorial video on just how it’s done. You can pick up cheap flip flops for this project at stores like Dollar Tree, Five Below and Family Dollar.

Turn your seashell collection into a creative door decoration. Pick up a large wooden letter (in your last initial) and simply cover the letter in shells with hot glue. In the end, it should look something like this.

Is gardening your thing? How about a garden hose wreath as an ode to your green thumb? This adorable wreath is definitely unique, and pretty simple too! Here are instructions to guide you.

Whether you’re crafty or not, decorating your front door can be fun and easy, so give it a try!


5 quick and easy treats to serve last-minute visitors

14504304_lEvery grandparent knows the thrill of having your grandchildren stop by on short notice—or no notice at all. And every grandchild knows that visits to Grandma and Grandpa are sweet for many reasons, including the sweet treats grandma offers.

When you have little to no notice that you’re about to have company, what treats or snacks can you prepare without a headache? Here are a few favorite, delicious, quick recipes that are sure to please all visitors—grandchildren included.

Easy Blackberry Coffee Cake

You’ll need:
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ cups white sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2/3 cup margarine
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1 cup blackberries

This delicious coffee cake is ready in just 35 minutes.

For the full recipe and instructions, click here.

Butter Pecan Toffee

Combine 1 stick butter, ¾ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until brown (305º F on a candy thermometer). Arrange 20 tea biscuits side by side on a large buttered, foil-lined baking sheet; pour the sugar mixture on top and sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans. Chill until firm; break apart.

Greek Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts

You’ll need:
• 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
•  2 cups toasted walnuts
• ¾ cup honey

For the full recipe and instructions, click here.

Raspberry S’Mores

You’ll need:
• 8 graham crackers
• 32 large marshmallows, cut in half
• 2- 1 ½ ounce chocolate bars
• 1 cup fresh raspberries

For full recipe and instructions, click here.

Cinnamon and Sugar Tortilla Strips

You’ll need:
• 3 8-inch frozen flour tortillas
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• Vanilla ice cream

For full recipe and instructions, click here.

Arm yourself with these simple recipes, and you’ll have a tasty treat to serve your grandkids or other guests next time they show up unannounced!



The importance of prayer for a healthy mind and body

21722010_lA majority of Americans believe prayer is an important part of daily life, according to a 2013 Pew Research Poll. Not only does prayer strengthen our faith and our relationship with God, but scientists have also begun to recognize that there are physical and psychological benefits of an active prayer life.

There are many reasons we pray, but what you may not know is that prayer:

Reduces stress and anxiety. Prayer has long been the center of scientific study. Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in the field of mind/body medicine, discovered that prayer induces the “relaxation response,” in which the body’s metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down and breathing becomes clear and steady. In fact, one National Institutes of Health study found that people who prayed daily were 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure. Stress is disease; spending time in prayer can lower your stress level, thus reducing your risk of heart-related and other illnesses.

Improves our positive outlook. Psychologically, prayer forces us to take a step back from life for a few minutes. It gives us time to gather ourselves mentally before facing a difficult situation and give those situations over to God. Prayer also allows us to spend time in gratitude for the good things in life. Researchers have found that prayer and meditation also increase levels of dopamine, which has been associated with wellbeing and joy.

Allows us to better cope with and recover from illness/surgery. Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that patients who held strong religious beliefs and who underwent elective heart surgery were three times more likely to recover than heart surgery patients who were less religious.

Another survey of 4,000 senior citizens reported in the Journal of Gerontology found that people who regularly participated in prayer or meditation coped better with illness and were more likely to live longer than those who do not.

Keeps us connected to our faith. Even many atheists admit they spend time in a state of prayer or meditation each day, but for a person of faith, prayer is one of the pillars that keep us connected to God. The act of prayer alone is a simple act of faith, as you are taking time to converse with a God you cannot see.

In addition to these benefits of an active prayer life, according to scripture, prayer strengthens the spirit, provides rest and renewal for the soul, comforts us in times of grief and imparts wisdom, insight and inspiration.

Prayer is the foundation of a life lived with joy and peace of mind. Scripture instructs us to pray, but science has also revealed benefits of prayer. Living a life of prayer does not require carving out hours of your day to pray, though at times life’s circumstances may call for that. Rather, keep a prayerful mindset and hold a continual conversation with the Lord about whatever is on your mind and you will reap the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of prayer.