Overnight French Toast Casserole

 Posted by on December 30, 2013  2 Responses »
Dec 302013
 

 

A good breakfast is a must-have for me on Christmas morning.  John and I decided we wanted to try something a little different this year, and after browsing some recipes on Pinterest, I decided to give this Overnight French Toast Casserole a try. 

It sounded easy enough.  I liked the fact that I could put it together the night before, and then just stick it in the oven when we woke up on Christmas morning.  Also – how can you go wrong with the combination of brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon??

Overnight French Toast Casserole

I was really hoping that this casserole would not turn out to be soggy in the middle, and I was pleasantly surprised with the results.  This Overnight French Toast Casserole was absolutely amazing.  It was crunchy on the outside, and soft in the middle – but not soggy.  I used Cinnamon Swirl bread instead of regular to give it a little more flavor.  I also did not have any pecans on hand, so we went nut-free, but I bet it would be absolutely delicious with pecans. 

Overnight French Toast Casserole

A friend of mine mentioned that she’d like to try this recipe using Cinnamon Raisin bread.  I’m not a fan of raisins baked into things, but if that’s something you’re interested in, then by all means try it!  This recipe seems to be very versatile in that you can use whatever kind of bread you have on hand.  I also switched it up a bit more by using almond milk instead of regular.

Here’s the recipe, the way I adapted it from Mommy’s Kitchen:

Overnight French Toast Casserole

Overnight French Toast Casserole

Ingredients: 
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) melted
1.5 loaves of Cinnamon Swirl bread
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups almond milk
Maple syrup
Powdered sugar

Directions: 

Cut slices of Cinnamon Swirl bread in half.
 
Melt butter and pour into the bottom of a 9x 13 baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. 
 
Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a separate bowl.  Layer bottom of baking dish with half the bread slices.  Sprinkle half of the brown sugar mix over the bread. 

Layer second half of bread on top of brown sugar mix. Pour egg mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar mix on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove from the refrigerator and cover with a new piece of foil. Preheat oven to 350 and bake the casserole for 30 minutes. 
 
Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the French toast casserole is brown on top.
 
Pour maple syrup on top of casserole. Place back in the oven and using your ovens broiler, broil for about 5-7 minutes to caramelize the top.
 
Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.  Serve warm.  It goes great with a hot cup of coffee!

 

Dec 292013
 

 

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Monk Fruit In The Raw. I received a promotional item and product sample as a thank you for participating.

Christmas has come and gone, but sadly the 10 pounds I’ve gained over the last few months have not.  All that holiday baking (and eating) has caught up with me, and I’m totally feeling it.  Ugh.  

One of my goals for the new year is to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, which is about 30 pounds lighter than I am right now.  Kayleigh is nearly 8 months old now, and I’ve been putting this off for way too long.

One of my major roadblocks with losing weight is that I love to bake.  I love it.  And, to add to that problem, John just bought me a KitchenAid Stand Mixer for Christmas!  That means I’ll be baking up lots and lots of goodies now. 

To cut down on some of the fat and calories, I am going to try switching to Monk Fruit In The Raw, instead of using sugar.  Monk Fruit In The Raw is a wholesome, zero-calorie sweetener, made from delicious vine-ripened monk fruit, native to South East Asia, and it has the clean, sweet taste of sugar.

Monk Fruit In The Raw packets and Bakers Bags make for easy beverages or baking as they measures cup for cup like sugar and were created specifically for baking.  That s0unds easy enough for me!

One of my very favorite desserts is cheesecake.  I just can’t get enough of it.  John and I eat cheesecake quite often, but it is extremely fattening.  I think for New Years Eve this year, I am going to try making this New York Cheesecake from Monk Fruit In The Raw.  It looks delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

New York Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1/2cup graham cracker crumbs
2teaspoons Monk Fruit In The Raw® Bakers Bag
1teaspoon unsalted butter, chilled
2(8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3cup sugar
1/3cup Monk Fruit In The Raw Bakers Bag
3large eggs, at room temperature
1cup sour cream
1teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Wrap the outside of an 8-inch springform pan with foil to make it waterproof.

2. For the crust, combine the crumbs, Monk Fruit In The Raw® Bakers Bag, and butter in a small bowl, working them with your fingertips until the mixture resembles moist sand. Spread the crumb mixture over bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer.

3. In a deep mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on medium-low to beat the cream cheese until fluffy, 2 minutes. Mix in the sugar and Monk Fruit In The Raw® Bakers Bag.  One at a time, add the eggs, mixing well after each one. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Pour the filling into the prepared pan. Rap the pan sharply on the counter several times to knock out air bubbles.

4. Set a deep baking pan large enough to hold the cheesecake pan onto the oven rack. Place the cheesecake pan in the center of the baking pan. Carefully fill the baking pan with boiling water to 1/2-inch below rim of the cheesecake pan.

5. Bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit for 50 minutes without opening oven door. Cool the cheesecake completely on a wire rack. Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate the cheesecake for 24 hours before serving.

6. To serve, using a knife dipped in hot water, cut the cake into 12 wedges. Wipe the knife blade after each cut.

Nutrition Information

Per slice (12 slices): 224 calories, 18 g fat 11 g saturated fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 109 mg cholesterol, 166 mg sodium

Monk Fruit In The Raw provides a reduced sugar and calorie option with wholesome ingredients and great taste you can feel good about serving your family!  The main sweetening ingredient in Monk Fruit In The Raw is simply monk fruit, a taste that works in any recipe that calls for sugar. Monk Fruit In The Raw does not contain added table sugar, sugar alcohols (erythritol), or molasses.  Healthy baking just got a whole easier!

 

Merry Christmas!

 Posted by on December 25, 2013  2 Responses »
Dec 252013
 

 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!  I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday!

Merry Christmas!

Dec 182013
 

 

Disclosure:  I received free samples to facilitate this review.  All opinions are 100% my own.

Back in 2006, my family and I went on a week-long Caribbean cruise.  We visited Cozumel, Mexico; Ochos Rios, Jamaica; and my favorite place ever (SERIOUSLY!!), Grand Cayman. 

If I could snap my fingers and visit any place in the world, I would choose Grand Cayman, without even a moment of hesitation.  The skies were bright blue, the water was crystal clear, and the temperatures were warm and toasty.  It was absolute heaven.

The bad part about cruises, is that you only get to take short day trips to each destination.  I fell in love with Grand Cayman the second I stepped off the cruise ship, but I was only able to spend 8 hours enjoying this beautiful little island.

We made the most of our day in Grand Cayman, though.  We swam with stingrays, we ate at The Hard Rock Cafe, and we took a bus tour around the island visiting places like The Turtle Farm, a place called Hell, and the Tortuga Rum Factory

Tortuga logo

The second we stepped inside the Tortuga Rum Factory, I was greeted by the sweetest smells ever.  There were samples of various rum cakes lying out in the open, begging to be tasted.  I think I sampled every single one of them.  They were so delicious, I just had to buy a few to take home with me!

Tortuga Rum Factory has several different flavors of rum cakes to choose from, including original (which has walnuts in it), chocolate, coconut, Blue Mountain coffee, banana, key lime, and pineapple.  These flavors are all very tropical, and each bite will leave you feeling like you are lying on the beach with the warm sun shining on you.  At least it does for me!  

Tortuga Rum Cakes

These cakes are extremely moist and flavorful, and they come vacuum-sealed to ensure freshness.

Tortuga Rum Cake

I had the pleasure of tasting the original rum cake (for the 4th time).  I never grow tired of this cake.  I love the sweet rum flavor, and the crunch of the walnuts.  This cake pairs very well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Tortuga Original Rum Cake

I also tried out a flavor I hadn’t tried before – key lime.  I think key lime is one of those flavors that you either love or hate.  I personally LOVE key lime.  I like the tart flavor.  This cake isn’t overwhelming with tart flavor though, so I think even people that don’t really care for key lime will enjoy this.  It’s a very light, crisp, and refreshing flavor. 

Tortuga Key Lime Rum Cake

Tortuga rum cakes are of very high quality, and they back that up right on the box.

Tortuga Label

Tortuga’s product line also includes rum flavored coffees, savory Caribbean sauces, rum fudge and more!  For more information, or to place an order, visit www.tortugarums.com today!

tortuga products

Follow Tortuga Rum Cake Company on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and promotions.

 

 

Dec 162013
 

 

Disclosure:  I received a free book to facilitate my review.  All opinions are 100% my own.

flattenme

I fell in love with Owl Always Love You, a personalized book from Flattenme.com, a couple of months ago.  The illustrations were just absolutely breathtaking, and the book was such a wonderful keepsake for my daughter, Kayleigh.

Flattenme recently added a new personalized book, called “Blessings”, to their product line, and I didn’t hesitate to accept a copy for review.  I anticipated that this book would be just as wonderful as Owl Always Love You, and it did not disappoint me at all! 

Blessings

I am once again so amazed with the gorgeous illustrations in this book.  They are very bright and colorful.  Each page is so inviting, and will surely hold a child’s attention.

Blessings

The little animals are so delightful, and bring a smile to my face.  Isn’t this squirrel holding a strawberry heart so cute and whimsical?!

Blessings

The beautiful words directed to your little one are sweet and soothing.  Phrases like “May your life be like a rainbow with a colorful glow.  Go brighten the world, Kayleigh, everywhere that you go” are truly inspiring.  Your little one will love hearing their name repeated throughout the book.

Blessings

We are going to wrap this book and put it under the tree for Kayleigh for Christmas.  This book would not only make an excellent Christmas gift, but it would be great for a birthday, first communion, baptism, christening, baby shower, etc.

You can purchase this book at http://www.flattenme.com – $29.95 for paperback. $34.95 for hardcover. 

For the latest news and promotions, follow Flattenme:

https://www.facebook.com/flattenme

http://pinterest.com/flattenme/

https://twitter.com/flattenme

http://blog.flattenme.com/

 

 

Dec 162013
 

 

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Sturm Foods, Inc. I received a promotional item and product samples as a thank you for participating.

It’s been snowing here in Maine all day today, and I think John and I have had about 4 cups of coffee each!  Is there really anything more relaxing than sipping on a hot, delicious cup of coffee, hot cocoa or cappuccino on a cold, winter day, while watching the snow fall outside?

caza trail coffee

We are truly blessed to own a Keurig brewer, so we can make single serve cups of our favorite hot beverages any time we want.  I keep a k-cup carousel right next to the Keurig, which makes it super easy to see all of our beverage options.

k-cup carousel

We’ve recently been trying out some tasty drinks from Grove Square and Caza Trail, including Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Hot Cocoa, French Vanilla Cappuccino, and Dark Roast Coffee

Grove Square and Caza Ttrail

I love that there is a variety of hot cocoa flavors in one box.  John doesn’t like peppermint flavored anything, but I love it, so having a few peppermint flavored hot cocoas for myself, and some other flavors that he can enjoy is great.  These hot cocoas taste delicious, and are a perfect treat any time of day or night.  I love adding marshmallows and cinnamon to mine!

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was 29 years old, but I was addicted to cappuccino for a long time.  When I was in high school, my friend Amanda and I would walk to the gas station down the street from her house and buy extra large cups of french vanilla cappuccino.  We LOVED it.  The Grove Square French Vanilla Cappuccino tastes exactly like that cappuccino we drank back in  the day, and it brought back a lot of great memories for me.  Isn’t it wonderful that something as simple as a warm drink can bring back so many great memories?

Dark roast coffee is sort of an acquired taste.  I don’t like to drink it every day, but it’s a nice change-up every once in a while.  I’m really excited to try Caza Trail’s Donut Shop K-Cups.  I’ll be ordering some from Amazon very soon!

GIVEAWAY

Speaking of Donut Shop K-Cups, I’m hosting a giveaway for one box!  To enter, simply complete as many entries as you wish below.  Please note – prize will not ship out until mid-January due to the holidays. This giveaway is open to US residents only.  Winner must contact me with their shipping info prior to Friday, December 20, 2013, or sponsor will be unable to fulfill prize shipment.  Please only enter if you can agree to these terms.  Good luck!

A Letter to Kayleigh at 7 Months

 Posted by on December 15, 2013  1 Response »
Dec 152013
 

 

My Dear Sweet Kayleigh,

You are 7 months old today!  I can’t even believe it has been that long since I gave birth to you on that very long day in May.  You have grown so much since I wrote to you at 3 months.  I had fully intended to write to you at 6 months, but life got in the way…  I’ll try to be better about that.  Time is flying by so quickly, and I don’t want to miss out on ANYTHING!

Kayleigh

Over the last few months, you have learned to say “Mama”.  You wave “bye” to Daddy when he leaves for work in the morning some times.  You are also sitting up on your own for about 30 seconds at a time!

Kayleigh

You’ve had some fun with your cousin Morgan.  I hope you two will be the best of friends when you are older!

Kayleigh and Morgan

You have become very interested in watching cartoons, and love to watch the educational videos from KidsTV123 on Youtube.

Kayleigh

You are eating solid foods on a regular basis now.  Some of your favorites are sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and Grampy’s squash soup, which you DEVOURED on Thanksgiving!

Kayleigh Sweet Potatoes

Speaking of Thanksgiving… it was your first, and you had lots of fun spending time with your family.  Here you are with Great Grammie.  She just loves you!

Kayleigh Thanksgiving

This year is your first Christmas and Daddy and I are SO excited!  We can’t wait to see you rip into your presents on Christmas morning.  You have definitely given us a lot to look forward to this year.

Kayleigh First Christmas

You are growing into such a beautiful little girl.  People tell me all the time that you look like a little pixie, or a Kewpie doll.  They all love your smile, and all of your adorable facial expressions (you get those from your Daddy).

Kayleigh by the fire

Your Daddy and I are having so much fun with you.  You have brought so much joy to our lives, are we are so thankful and blessed to call you our daughter.

All of us

Being your Mom is still the best job in the whole world! 

Love you always,

Mommy

 

Candy Cane Kiss Blondies

 Posted by on December 14, 2013  No Responses »
Dec 142013
 

 

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself standing in the aisle of the grocery store where they keep all of the holiday candy.  A bag of Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses caught my eye, and I didn’t hesitate to toss it in my shopping basket.  Gotta love those impulse buys, right?

When I arrived home, I decided I would try to make something with the kisses.  Otherwise, the whole bag would be in my belly before the night was over. 

I had made the most amazing blondies with white chocolate chips in them before, using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and I thought chopped Candy Cane Kisses would make a great substitution for the white chocolate chips. 

Hersheys Candy Cane Kisses

Deb says right in her post that these blondies are infinitely adaptable, and I believe that to be true.  You could put just about anything in them, and they would taste great.  I think the crushed Candy Cane Kisses are a great addition for a delicious Christmas treat!

The thing I love most about this recipe, is that it is so simple to make.  There are only 6 ingredients, plus whatever you decide to add to make them your own.

Candy Cane Kiss Blondies

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of Hersheys Candy Cane Kisses (roughly chopped)

Directions:

  • Grease an 8×8 pan.
  • Mix melted butter with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
  • Add salt, stir in flour. Mix in chopped Candy Cane Kisses.
  • Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. 

These Candy Cane Kiss Blondies are very flaky and gooey, so allow them to cool completely before cutting.  Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a mess!  It will be very hard to resist the temptation to dig right in after you take them out of the oven, but trust me on this one.  They are well worth the wait!

How do YOU enjoy Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses? 

 

Dec 142013
 

 

I participated in a Blogger Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Kidoodle.TV. I received a promotional item and a free trial as a thank you for participating.

John and I haven’t had cable television for a few years.  Some people think we are completely nuts, but we find it to be too expensive, not really have anything worthwhile to watch, and full of inappropriate shows for our daughter, Kayleigh.  I honestly don’t miss cable television one bit!

We do have a monthly subscription to Netflix, but that still has a lot of shows that are not safe for her innocent eyes.  At almost 7 months old, she has already learned how to turn on the Xbox with the controller, and I’m sure she’ll soon know how to navigate to Netflix by herself.  That kind of scares me a bit. 

Safe Television Programming For Children

I was recently introduced to Kidoodle.TV, which offers safe television programming just for children.  There is absolutely NO adult content, and NO advertising, and parents can control everything their kids watch.  How great is that?!

Not only is the programming tailored for children, but it is also specifically designed for the use and navigation of children 12 and under.  It features a brightly colored, easy-to-use interface, and up to 5 kid profiles can be added to each account.

kidoodle.tv

Parents can also control what their children watch by filtering shows by age category, and selection and de-selection, which allows parents to tailor available content to each child’s needs.

kidoodle.tv

Once logged into Kidoodle.TV, parents simply select a Kid Profile and let the child select which of the pre-approved shows they would like to watch.

kidoodle.tv

I love knowing that I don’t have to worry about Kayleigh accidentally watching something she shouldn’t.  Here she is watching “Hurray for Huckle”.  I’d say she really liked it!

kidoodle.tv

Kidoodle.TV is available on smartphones, tablets, and PCs/Macs.  Kayleigh has already shown an interest in our mobile devices, so it will be great to have Kidoodle.TV installed on them for her.  It will also make for great entertainment on the go! 

Kidoodle.TV Holiday Giveaway

You can try Kidoodle.TV for FREE through December 31, 2013!  to enter to win 1 of 10 tablets or 1 of 10 Kidoodle.TV year-long subscriptions, go to Kidoodle.TV to sign up for a free trial. Follow the on-screen directions and submit!

For the latest news and promotions, follow Kidoodle.TV on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Dec 132013
 

 

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for the Cord Blood Registry. I received promotional item to thank me for my participation.

After I found out I was pregnant with Kayleigh, and had signed up for various “free baby items” on several different websites, I received a few flyers in the mail for cord blood banking services. 

I had heard about cord blood banking in the past, but I didn’t really know much about it, except that it could possibly help Kayleigh during an illness at some point in her lifetime, and that it was expensive.  Not really having a lot of money, I didn’t bother to do any more research into the matter.  I did always think in the back of my mind that it would be a really great thing to do though.  Alas, Kayleigh’s birth came and went, and so did her cord blood.

I think a lot of parents-to-be either have never heard of cord blood banking, or don’t know a lot about it.  Since there is only one opportunity to bank a child’s umbilical cord blood, in the moments following their birth, it is so very important to be informed and prepared ahead of time.  I really wish I had done more research, and not just let that once in a lifetime opportunity slip by me.

cord blood bankingWhat is cord blood banking?

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth and after the cord is cut. It is collected immediately after birth and the collection is painless, easy and safe for the mother and infant, and stored for future use.  Families have the option of storing a section of the umbilical cord as well, which is rich in different kinds of stem cells than those found in the cord blood itself. 

Where is the cord blood stored?

Cord Blood Registry is the world’s largest family umbilical cord blood & tissue bank.  The company’s laboratory and storage facility in Tucson, Ariz., is the largest newborn stem cell bank in the world.  They have invested millions of dollars to help ensure the safety of its clients’ stem cells. This secure facility is strengthened by bullet resistant glass and has a floor load capacity that can hold 800,000 pounds (16x the standard requirements), a back-up liquid nitrogen tank the size of a 747 jet, one of the largest backup generators available, and temperature monitoring every 1.6 seconds. 

Cord Blood Registry has stored more than 500,000 cord blood and tissue stem cell units!  Impressive, huh?!

What are the benefits of cord blood banking?

Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, considered to be the master cells of the body. Newborn  stem cells can trigger natural repair processes in the body by reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow to injured or diseased areas. They can also stimulate the growth of new blood vessels and other tissues. Cord blood stem cells have been used in the treatment of more than 80 conditions and are currently being evaluated in FDA-regulated clinical trials for their potential regenerative ability in common health issues including autism, cerebral palsy, pediatric stroke, and traumatic brain injury.

What options are there for cord blood banking?

The primary options for cord blood banking are to store your stem cells with a family bank or to donate to a public bank.

  • Family banking offers parents storage for cord blood stem cells for the family’s exclusive use. This typically includes a one-time processing fee and annual storage fees but gives parents access to these stem cells if needed. Free family banking is available through Cord Blood Registry for families with a medical need. Investigate your options for family banking as not all cord blood banks store cord blood in the same manner or offer the same services.
  • Public donation lets parents donate stem cells at no cost to possibly help someone in need. While you may be able to access your donation if you need it, there is no guarantee that your donation will be available to you.

I had absolutely no idea that you could make a public donation of your baby’s cord blood at no cost.  If I had known this, I probably would have jumped at the chance.  Even if the cord blood had not been available for Kayleigh, if it saved the life of another child, it would have been completely worth it.  Just think of how many children could be saved from terminal illnesses if everyone donated their baby’s cord blood!

If you are interested in cord blood banking, visit www.cordblood.com for more information, and be sure to talk to your physician or childbirth educator.  They will help you sort through your options and will also work with you to ensure you have what is needed at the time of delivery for a smooth collection.

Would you ever consider cord blood banking?  Would you make a public donation of your baby’s cord blood?