Happy Kids, Inc
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bloglovin' Blog Hop #112




Host and Co-Hosts:


       


Your March Sponsor!


I love Bloglovin'! It is such a clean, easy way to follow blogs you love and directly comment on blog posts, while still remaining on your stream on the Bloglovin' site. If you haven't used it lately, you should. They have really made a nice interface.  

So, why not grow our following then! Here are the rules:

1. Enter your link below DIRECTLY to your Bloglovin' profile; you will need to manually upload a photo.
2. Follow your host, co-host, and sponsor.
3. Visit 2-3 other bloggers in the linky and say  "hi".
4. Share and tweet this hop!    

Feel free to grab a button and place it on your blog!



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Thoughts On Season XIV of American Idol

By Meg Hodson

Wow, Season XIV of American Idol. I think it's safe to call yourself an American institution at that point! And it is. For me, American Idol continues to be the reality singing show I go to. Yes, I have watched The Voice a couple times. But maybe it's because I've been watching American Idol for so long that it feels like home to me. 

American Idol Judges Keith Urban Jennifer Lopez Harry Connick Jr

American Idol Judge Keith Urban

This season, we have seen the return of American Idol judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr., and Keith Urban. Ryan Seacrest is back for his 14th season as host. While I still may long for Simon Cowell and his rock hard criticism and amazing skill at choosing talent, let's look at the here and now. The reality is that this is a great group of judges with solid chemistry. Let's face, we did not have that chemistry when Nikki Minaj and Mariah Carey were on the show. American Idol learned their lesson and moved on. The current judges are a good fit.

Elizabeth Traub at American Idol Hollywood Week IdolTweethearts

Meg Hodson and Elizabeth Traub at American Idol Hollywood Week IdolTweethearts

I got the chance to get some behind-the-scenes access to Hollywood Week for American Idol this season back in October. It is one of my favorite parts of the competition. No one can deny that there is talent out there this year. So far, except for one or two misses, I agree with who has advanced and now makes up the Top 24. My wish is that American Idol focuses not only on the talent, but finding that balance between talent, stage presence, and star quality. Just because you have "the look" won't make you a pop star. 

I also like the fact that there seems to be a nice balance between veteran performers (like Nick Fradiani) and newbies who haven't really performed much (Daniel Seavey). While it makes me a little apprehensive that contestants like Daniel have made it through to this point, I think this is what sets American Idol apart from shows like The Voice. While The Voice seems to focus strictly on seasoned musicians, American Idol provides a nice balance of backgrounds. 

Meg Hodson and Elizabeth Traub Sneak Peek of American Idol

Who are you rooting for this year on American Idol?

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Monday, March 2, 2015

What Do I Do With That Spice?

By Meg Hodson

I received complimentary samples from Olde Westport Spice Company in exchange for my review. All opinions remain 100% my own.

I am often dazzled and albeit overwhelmed by the varieties of spices and spice blends out there! If you are someone like me who likes to cook regularly and create recipes, it can be hard to keep track and remember which spice works well in which recipes. 

I recently received some amazing spices from Olde Westport Spice Company and thought it would be good to make a list of common spices, some not so common, and spice blends and what their best uses are. Olde Westport Spice Company creates custom spice blends, seasonings and dry soups. Olde Westport Spice & Trading Company is a 33-year-old spice manufacturer that is still going strong. This online company operates a small plant in Goodland, Kansas, and knows a thing or two about spices, seasonings and soups. 

I hope you find this list helpful when cooking and creating new recipes. With this list, I am assuming you know what to do with basic spices like salt, garlic, and pepper.

Olde Westport Spice and Trading Company how to use spices


1. Oregano. This is possibly one of my favorite spices, only because I think it takes second fiddle to basil and parsley. Oregano, for me, is a staple in Mexican sauces, Mexican recipes, Italian sauces, and even a dash in eggs tastes amazing!

2. Paprika. I almost use smoked paprika exclusively now; that smoke flavor works perfectly in recipes that call for paprika. For that "secret ingredient" feeling in recipes, use paprika in dips, chili, macaroni and cheese, Mexican sauces, egg salad, sauces, and soup.

3. Nutmeg. Okay, I know you probably are very familiar with nutmeg and routinely add it to pumpkin pie, muffins, and other baked goods. What many don't know is that nutmeg is that perfect last spice for cream sauces, like alfredo. I also sometimes put a few dashes in my homemade marinara sauce. It's perfect when roasting root vegetables, like turnips. When making butternut squash with a savory profile (i.e., olive oil, sea salt, etc.), it compliments the squash nicely. And once again, it is perfect in Mexican sauces, like enchilada sauce. 

4. Mesquite. I say "mesquite" and I think most of you will think of beef. But surprisingly, it also works great with fish and chicken. I also used my sample of Olde Westport Spices on roasted root vegetables and they turned out great!

5. Traditional Chili Seasoning vs. Chili Verde. These two spice blends are similar, but to me, the main difference is "spice vs. tanginess". Chili verde spice blends have that more pungent, tang that some people prefer not only in their chili, but in other dishes like soup. Traditional chili blends are what most associate with a good, meaty chili; it's packed with chili powder, paprika, and red chili peppers. Both compliment traditional chili recipes, your personal preference will determine which one you choose.

6. Dill. I love adding dill to egg salad, fish, and even chicken. Not as common is using dill on fresh fruit. I love to actually mix it with diced mint leaves for a refreshing summer salad. 

7. Bay Leaves. I love to add a few to soups or stews in the crockpot. Be sure to remove before serving.

8. Chocolate. Many don't think of chocolate as a spice necessarily, but I find myself using it in sauces quite a bit (give your enchilada sauce or homemade BBQ sauce a flair) and I always put a few dashes in my chili.

What are your favorite spices and how do you use them? Be sure to take advantage of 10% off Olde Westport Spices by using the discount code usfamilyguide.


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