Momma Told Me: 2018

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No Bake Caramel Apple Cracker Bites Seasonal Recipe

No Bake Caramel Apple Cracker Bites for holiday celebrations; Caramel Sauce, Butter Crackers, Pretzel Rods, and Chocolate.
Momma Told Me: It came from the microwave.

Momma didn't care much for the decorating aspect of the holidays, when I was a child- She was much more content whipping up some seasonal treat in the kitchen while my father silently cursed over the assembly of our artificial tree to the background tune of Mannheim Steamroller. Yes, they're the things my childhood holiday memories are made of. One year, Momma found herself low on energy and time, and decided to bring back a simple snack her own family had enjoyed, growing up. Most commonly known ad 'holiday bark,' or 'Christmas Crack,' a plate full of Saltine crackers covered in caramel chunks and chocolate chip cookies, melted, made for the perfect tradition. It was something so simple and delicious, Momma made it on demand every year after.
No Bake Caramel Apple Cracker Bites for holiday celebrations; Caramel Sauce, Butter Crackers, Pretzel Rods, and Chocolate.
The crispy crunch of the cracker covered in gooey caramel, topped with smooth melted chocolate has stuck with me my entire adult life. I'm a sucker for the contrast of salty and sweet- and who doesn't love simple holiday snacking solutions? So, in homage, I devised these similar Caramel Apple Cracker Bites with just a touch of modern styling and food sophistication. While some of my guests call them 'cookies' they really rely on ready-made ingredients, so I have a hard time taking credit for their amazing texture and flavor.
No Bake Caramel Apple Cracker Bites for holiday celebrations; Caramel Sauce, Butter Crackers, Pretzel Rods, and Chocolate.
Start with some round butter crackers and your favorite caramel sauce. I typically use a salted caramel jarred sundae sauce- just make sure you've either chilled your sauce, or are beginning with a thick/slow flow sauce that will not just run off your cracker. Drizzle or scoop a heaping teaspoon of caramel onto one side of your cracker 'sandwich,' place a pretzel stick in the caramel, sticking out, as your 'stem' and top with the other cracker half.
You'll want to chill your cracker apple creations a bit before dipping them, as the hot, or even warm, dipping chocolate will make the caramel want to run. I place my tray in the freezer for about 40 minutes, prior to dipping. Choose a chocolate dipping base that is sufficiently cut/thinned with coconut oil or shortening, but not too thin, to allow for quick and even coating. If possible remove your meting chocolate from the heat source before dipping.
No Bake Caramel Apple Cracker Bites for holiday celebrations; Caramel Sauce, Butter Crackers, Pretzel Rods, and Chocolate.
No Bake Caramel Apple Cracker Bites for holiday celebrations; Caramel Sauce, Butter Crackers, Pretzel Rods, and Chocolate.
Dip chilled cracker 'apples' with a quick 'flip' style roll in the melting chocolate. Here I've used Caramel Apple flavored Wilton chocolate baking melts, but you can also use any white chocolate tinted green. Once they are dipped, place them on a piece of parchment, on a cookie sheet, and immediately return them to the fridge or freezer. Be careful not to freeze the caramel, you simply want it chilled in a solid state for consumption!
No Bake Caramel Apple Cracker Bites for holiday celebrations; Caramel Sauce, Butter Crackers, Pretzel Rods, and Chocolate.
When I first served these my guests were expecting dipped OREO cookies- since I'd made seasonal bats and pumpkins from OREOs a few weeks prior. They were certainly surprised to pick up this lighter treat with an addictive, crispy crunch. They were an instant hit with the perfect balance of salt, caramel, and chocolate. We specially love that they aren't overly sweet, and won't 'weigh' one down when grazing through a holiday spread! Have you ever served crackers in a sweet recipe such as this?

What Daughter Says:  There's no doubt, home cooked is best-not everything can take hours to make, though!

Kicking Holiday Heartburn + Split Pea Soup From Scratch Recipe

Rustic Split Pea Soup From Scratch Recipe- #MakeHeartburnHistory #AD
Momma Told Me: Taste the season to be jolly.

Don't judge- but for me, the holidays are all about food.

From January through October I exercise impressive self control when it comes to my at home, and even social eating. Don't get me wrong, I still love food during the rest of the year, but it's November and December I specifically reserve my splurging for. There are simply too many events, and seasonal specialties, I just can't turn down. And I may be shoveling every delicious homemade thing in sight onto my plate, or into my mouth, but that doesn't mean I'm not cultivating priceless memories at the same time. Because it wouldn't be the holidays without the seasonal flavors, and those flavors wouldn't tickle my tummy, and delight my inner child without all of the warm memories associated with them.
Protect yourself from your holiday self with Nexium® 24HR Capsules for frequent heartburn, at Walgreens. #MakeHeartburnHistory #AD
For example, ginger cookies remind me of the time I ate too many, gave myself a horrible tummy ache, and wound up with my head in my grandma's lap- her gently comforting caress of my hair, one Christmas Eve. The smell of molasses reminds me of the time my Uncle tried to smoke our holiday ham and we nearly wound up with the fire department at our Thanksgiving table. And coriander reminds me of that mysterious potato salad that would always wind up on my plate, whether I wanted it or not. Yes, food is one of the big reason's we get together- and it's the cornerstone of so many amazing memories and traditions. But for people like Jay, holiday cuisine can be a cruel mistress.
When we first met there was a slew of things Jay wouldn't eat- it not only dictated his food choices, but where we would go to eat for events such as dates. And, while there are many foods you may think of as triggers for heartburn, the ingredients and dishes which most greatly impact a frequent heartburn sufferer is as unique as the individual them-self. For example, Momma used to tell me to drink milk whenever heartburn would flair- but fatty foods such as milk and cheese actually increase Jay's discomfort, as they slow digestion and result in increased intestinal pressure.

When our first holiday season came around Jay began to make a fuss about sitting out family events- You can imagine the thoughts going through my head, I was certain it was all about me, and him not wanting to be around my family. As it turns out I was wrong. (Don't let him read that.) It soon came out that he didn't want to feel uncomfortable around all of the trigger foods he would inevitably want to eat. Frequent heartburn can truly sideline someone- and the holidays are no time to be feeling left out!
What's one of my biggest holiday indulgences? The holiday honey baked ham- you know the one- that sweet pork meat candy glazed with a golden sugar coating so aromatic you wish you could spritz your tree in it. (No, just me?)

Our family is big on the holiday ham tradition- we always make sure to order triple what we need to feed our guests and we still end up with minimal leftovers and a giant ham bone.Of course no matter how slick the family 'carver' thinks they are, there's still plenty of delicious ham flavor left on that bone, so I traditionally make a rustic split pea soup. It's kind of a holiday tradition.
Start by taking the bulk of the leftover meat off your ham bone with a paring knife. Reserve this meat, and any scraps/leftovers, diced, for the finishing touches at the end of your soup's creation.

Place a thick pad of butter in the bottom of an 8 quart pot and simmer your onion, celery, and carrots until they begin to turn soft, opaque, and slightly golden. Add some minced garlic and dried marjoram spice to really highlight the ham flavor you're about to introduce.
Add your ham hock/bone and the diced/trimmed ham to the pot and stir over medium heat just until sufficiently combined.
Next add your split peas and water, bringing the mixture to a simmer before lowering the heat and putting on a lid.
Rustic Split Pea Soup From Scratch Recipe- #MakeHeartburnHistory #AD
 Your soup won't look like much at this point, more of a vegetable stew, really, but shortly after adding the water savory aromas will begin to fill your kitchen thanks to the ham hock and marjoram.
You can't really over-cook your soup, aside from perhaps baking it to the bottom of your pot due to lack of stirring, so feel free to let it simmer until the ham is virtually melting off the bone.
Once your bone is clean, fish your hocks/bones from the soup carefully and smooth the mixture in a food processor a couple of cups at a time- I like to maintain a little texture, so I reserve 1-2 cups of the thicker soup as it is. Once processed, pour your blended coup back into the pot with the last of your reserved ham, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve this delicious rustic homemade split pea soup with a variety of toppings to garnish. Some of our family favorites include sour cream, bacon crumbles, bell peppers, cheddar cheese and fresh chives. Split pea soup, and all of the 'fixings' used to be a big trigger for Jay's frequent heartburn but Nexium® 24HR Capsules have changed the way his stomach greets seasonal cuisine.
Protect yourself from your holiday self with Nexium® 24HR Capsules for frequent heartburn, at Walgreens. #MakeHeartburnHistory #AD
Okay, now that his Holiday Heartburn Face is gone, he might be enjoying those holiday refreshments a little too much. Jay said this was his 'I'm drinking something I'm not supposed too, but I'm not going to pay for it later' face.
But in all serious-ness, I was trying to capture a nice holiday photo for our holiday cards, and the excitement of eggnog apparently got the better of both of them. Like father, like dog? I'm okay with it though, I'd much rather have a heartburn free partner in crime to eat my way through the holidays with than a scrunchy faced grinch! Do you have a traditional holiday dish you look forward to each year?

What Daughter Says: Don't sideline yourself this holiday season.

Rustic Split Pea Soup From Scratch Recipe- #MakeHeartburnHistory #AD
Rustic Split Pea Soup
***Click here for the printable Rustic Split Pea Soup recipe.

Inside-Out S'mores Bars Recipe

Inside-out S'mores Bars Box Mix Cooking Shortcut/Hack Recipe
Momma Told Me: Think outside the box.

This isn't a particularly pretty post- in fact, it was never really intended to be it's own blog post. I'd quite intended to mess around with a GIF or PIN strip some day- thus the lack of gooey-messy foodie shots, or excessive styling. The lighting isn't even great- it was an overcast day and half of my condo was moved into the new house, so I was really just 'working with what I had'. But, to be honest, these were actually requested by someone in my league to be posted, so here I am sitting down to type up one of the most basic, simple, recipes that has ever crossed my little space on the web.
Inside-out S'mores Bars Box Mix Cooking Shortcut/Hack Recipe
Growing up Momma loved 'boxed' recipe hacks- if there was any way she could save time while adding her own touch or twist to make something magical, she'd find it. Making 'boxed' recipe hacks are often not only time saving, but also quite affordable. Which makes them my go-to when I have to feed a large number of people (say, an entire bowling league) with only a few hours notice. After all, I am the 'dessert' lady, and blood sugar levels drop to dangerous numbers when I don't bring in the weekly fix for my bowlers!
This Inside-Out S'mores Bars recipe is so simple it doesn't require a narrated post- but the photos are still pretty to look at, right? I used to agonize over what brand or variety of boxed this or that I would choose when shopping for boxed recipes I'd found on Pinterest. The truth is most are pretty forgiving and you should always go with your personal tastes when picking 'the box.' For example, I love the triple fudge brownie variation of brownie mix from a certain big name baker brand- so that's what I use here. However, you may prefer a more malty milk chocolate flavor to compliment the s'mores theme, or perhaps something even more wild, such as a blondie mix. You really can't go wrong.
There are a few variations of this concept, and I completely endorse the variation where you layer chocolate bars atop your marshmallow layer before smothering it with the second half of your brownie batter- but, on this day, I needed a slightly less messy concept considering people would be putting their chocolatey hands in heavy balls at high velocities just after consumption. My personal 'twist' to this idea is double graham crackers- but that's always been my favorite part of the s'mores experience!
Inside-out S'mores Bars Box Mix Cooking Shortcut/Hack Recipe
You may be tempted to pull these out of the pan and start devouring them on the spot- Take my advice, let them cool thoroughly, especially if going the chocolate bar route. Not only will pretty much any cutting utensil instinctively want to stick to every inch of marshmallow, but the entire bar itself will crumble at the graham layer if you dive right in too soon. Don't worry, they're still be gooey and indulgent when cooled.
Inside-out S'mores Bars Box Mix Cooking Shortcut/Hack Recipe
So just a little further down you'll find the 'official' recipe- if the photos aren't instruction enough. Pretty much anyone can make these, and they go from box to belly in less than an hour (cool time included). Give them a try the next time you need to be a potluck/classroom mom/unexpected dinner guests hero. Now tell me a little bit about how you like to 'dress up' or incorporate boxed mixes into your cooking routine!

What Daughter Says: Sometimes delicious doesn't have to be fancy- boxed mix hacks make it as easy as 1-2-3.

Inside-out S'mores Bars Box Mix Cooking Shortcut/Hack Recipe
Inside-Out S'mores Bars 
***Click here for printable Inside-Out Smores Bars Recipe

5 Ways To Spoil Your Pet On A Budget- D.I.Y Foldable Raised Feeding Station

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #dothe99 #99obsessed #CollectiveBias
5 Ways To Spoil Your Pet On A Budget- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
There's no arguing that pets are family.

And every pet parent agonizes over how to give their pet the very best while still managing a budget. It's not uncommon to struggle with the desire to treat and spoil alongside the practicality of everyday needs and necessities. It's the main reason I find myself spending more and more money on my pets each year than on new clothing or accessories for me.

Which is why you won't be surprised to hear me say I enjoy shopping for my pets at my local 99 Cents Only Store. In fact, my local 99 not only has an entire aisle dedicated for pet supplies covering rodents and birds to cats and dogs, but a brand new exclusive dog food, too!
Choosing the right food for your pet can be an overwhelming task.

Modern pet food ranges from $.56 per serving all the way up to $8.20 per serving for an average 35lb dog. Many pet parents with healthy dogs find advertising and labels overwhelming. The want to feed one's dog a premium, high quality, food is evident but how to tackle this with label shaming and budgets is not always apparent.

For those hoping to feed their dogs something better than just 'ordinary,' the 99 has teamed up to offer an exclusive dog food comparable to "super premium" formulas sold across the county. Available in 2 varieties, Pet Inc. dry dog food features U.S. Farm Raised Beef or Chicken as the #1 Ingredient and is made with wholesome grains and veggies, and absolutely no artificial flavors or preservatives. Both of Pet Inc's formulas meet nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages, including growth of large sized dogs (70lbs or more as an adult.)
We immediately spotted this new find at the end of the pet supply aisle at our local 99 and was surprised to see these bags priced at half the price of major competitor national brands! We also learned these formulas removed extra fillers (meat-by-products) and simplified the recipes with peas, carrots,  beet pulp, brown rice and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to help promote a shiny coat. Pet Inc. Super Premium Dog food is currently available exclusively at your local 99 in both Beef and Brown Rice and Chicken and Vegetable recipes. You don't have to compromise quality for price when you choose quality dog food based on labels and facts, rather than brand names and store loyalty. (That's TIP #1 folks!)
Disney Dog Toys at 99 Cents Only Stores #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
Of course one of the main reasons we love shopping at the 99 so much is for the everyday treasure hunt that is guaranteed when we walk through the doors. The pet aisle at our local 99 has been growing all year and I never know what I'll find when I take a stroll down it. On my way to stock up on some fresh fruit and produce for the week's meal plan I spotted these Disney dog toys in the most adorable characters from Finding Nemo and Big Hero 6. You know I grabbed a few extras to leave behind as gifts for my dog walking clients!
Just look at our haul from this week's trip to the 99! We scored tough nylon super chewer rope toys, doggy waste bags, a travel water system, Super Premium Pet Inc. dry dog food, Disney licensed dog toys, dog sweaters and tutus, and more at a fraction of the cost we would've paid at other stores! We even nabbed a few extra items in the everyday household departments we planned on converting into some cool pet gear!
How to best store one's dog food is a never ending quest.

When you have small or medium sized dogs it isn't always practical to serve straight from the bag as food will go stale long before it is all consumed. And if you have curious felines underfoot a rolled up bag is never proper security for anything edible.

We found this extra large cereal storage snap container near the disposable party and tableware at our local 99. A quick trip down the office and craft supplies aisle for some colored duct tape and stickers and we were well on our way to some fancy dog gear.
I wrapped two strips of colored duct tape around the middle of the food storage container then used some pre-cut alphabet stickers to decorate the front with Nora's name. Next I added a little sparkle and class with some crystal stickers I also nabbed for just a dollar near all of the school and art supplies. In less than 5 minutes, and less than $5 I had a securely sealing dog food container perfect for the kitchen counter (or our dog food station.)
Custom Dog Food Canister- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
I was even able to score some strips of velcro in the electronics and auto aisle at the 99- I used this to fasten the food scoop to the side, out of the way and off the ground. Nora didn't seem too impressed, but that might be because she was confused why her new giant food bowl had a securely snapping lid on top!
For my 3rd tip- a D.I.Y. raised feeding station, I was immediately inspired by a treasure hunt find in the housewares section of my local 99. There were half a dozen different prints of the most adorable, and heavy duty, acrylic serving trays. Right below them on the shelf were rows of folding step stools. It didn't take a genius to see what needed to happen, and at under $10 this project was sure to be a real money saver compared to department store feeding stations retailing at triple and quadruple the price!
Using a power drill, over a piece of scrap wood on a sturdy work bench, we drilled two even holes straight through the acrylic tray AND step stool. Drilling the holes at the same time ensured they would later line up. As both items were made from a heavy duty plastic we made sure to support the back side with a scrap wood board to prevent any splitting or cracking.
We drilled our holes to match 2 pre-determined bolts. Like many we have a junk drawer with odd bits and ends, and simply chose the hardware we had on hand for this project. You can, however, often find starter tool kits and supplies in the auto/electronics aisle at your local 99. The key to this particular project is being able to screw a fastener on the underside to secure your tray to your foot stool base- the size of the bolts is not really crucial, so long as the nuts thread tightly onto them.
Because we used a folding foot stool, and wanted the tray to be able to function in this 'folding' manner for cleaning and storage we only put our bolts on one half of the stool/tray. We didn't feel any extra hardware was needed and felt confident that these two bolts were more than enough to keep the tray functioning and in tact through extended use.
D.I.Y Foldable, Raised, Pet Feeding Station- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
All this being said- our local 99 had 2 sizes (heights) for these strong foldable foot stools and we went with the shortest. The short stool would be best suited for a Small or Medium breed dog, where as the large/tall stool would be perfect for a Labrador or other large breed dog. We made ours as a gift for a friend in an upcoming holiday gift exchange- but I was a bit curious to see if this sort of feeding solution would keep little 2lb Gidget from 'surfing' her sister Nora's food. You'll have to keep reading to scroll on and see how that experiment went...
D.I.Y Foldable, Raised, Pet Feeding Station- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
All in all having a comfortable feeding experience is key to top notch spoiling. Many pet parents don't realize that dogs often strain to eat food placed directly on the floor. This straining can lead to poor digestion and even mild choking events, or speed-eating. Having a raised feeding station can not only improve your dog's digestive health, posture, and overall contentment at feeding time, but also serve to help contain messes and keep small hands and other animals our of their food.
D.I.Y Slow Feeder Solution For Pets- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
Speaking of speed-eating.....TIP #4 involves creating your own Slow Feeder solution.

If you have a dog that tends to gulp down their food before you can put the food canister away then you probably have noticed an upset tummy, or even choking events, from time to time. Watching a dog wolf down their food as though they live on the street can be alarming for pet owners. It not only often indicates food is not being properly chewed but also means your dog is at risk for intake of increased air into the digestive system leading to discomfort and other unpleasantries. D.I.Y Foldable, Raised, Pet Feeding Station- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
You can invest in several specially designed bowls and feeders intended to help slow your dog's consumption down. Many of these are merely bowls with divets and valleys cut into the bowl itself to make it harder for your dog to fit it's snout into the bowl and gulp large quantities of food at once.

We tried many when we first brought Nora home and none really seemed to work.

One day I was at the 99 and spotted some spikey chew toys of various shapes and sizes and decided to give making my own slow feeder a go. I bought a bowl about twice the size of her typical bowl and placed 3 toys of varying sizes inside, then poured her scoop of food in and gave it a good jostle. Sure enough the toys proved just enough of an obstacle to slow down Nora's consumption without preventing her from ultimately finishing her entire meal. Best of all the dog toys could be soaked in warm water and easily cleaned regularly without any fancy cleaning tools.
D.I.Y Foldable, Raised, Pet Feeding Station- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
Of course in a multi-dog home not all feeding obstacles can be tackled.

Some dogs are just too darn smart for their own good. Remember that feeding station we made for a medium sized dog as a gift? Nora rests at eye level when standing, and Gidget can walk entirely underneath it. Guess who figured out there was 'easy access' Pet Inc Super Premium food in the bowl during our photo shoot?

Yup, with a little bit of whining, and walking in circles, Gidget figured out how to tippy toe her way into a free meal. You just can't keep her out of anything!
My last tip to spoil your pup is with a new bed.

After all of that healthy, and yummy, digestion your pup will be ready for a nice long nap.

99 Cents Only Stores are full of great everyday pet supplies just like this comfy plush dog beg, with an easily washable cover, and enough room to fit both our girls. They also have plenty of fleece blankets for your pup to snuggle under as the weather turns!

We paid half what would would've paid for the same quality pet bed anywhere else- and we had our pick of styles and colors, too!
Affordable Pet Beds at 99 Cents Only Stores- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
Pet beds seem to be one of those things we are always investing in. We can never have enough of them throughout the house- and I prefer not to invest too much money in them because they are prone to get dirty or even soiled during the life of your pet. We used to haul pet beds back and forth to 'grandpaw's' house, but now can afford to buy a few especially for him to keep there, thanks to the deals at our local 99.
Spoil Your Pets On A Budget At 99 Cents Only Stores- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD
Keeping your pet happy and healthy is a never-ending struggle.

For me, I'd probably sooner feed my dogs than myself if it ever came down to it. Thankfully, the 99 has many options to not only keep pets fed and comfy, but properly spoiled every day of the year too! Keep an eye out for the exclusive Super Premium Pet Inc. dog food the next time you shop the 99 and give the label a good review. You just might be surprised what you'll find at the 99! Find a 99 Cents Only Store near you with this store finder.

Tell me, aisde from vet expenses, what do you find yourself spending the most money on for your pets?
D.I.Y Foldable, Raised, Pet Feeding Station- #DoThe99 #99Obsessed #AD