April 13, 2013

Pinterest Tested: Dry Erase Picture Frames

This is my easiest, and most used, Pinterest project yet. See, the Hubs and I like to leave each other notes on our counter in the mornings. But over time, we waste a ton of paper.

I've been trying to cut down on waste in all parts of our life lately. Maybe it's just us, but there is lots of room for improvement in that area.

I first saw this project on Pinterest several months ago. Since then, I've wanted to make it almost every weekend, but something always popped up. FINALLY, just last week, I got around to making this project (if you'd like to see the original pin, check it out here).

Here's what you need:

A picture frame of your choosing, any size (I voted for a 5x7, but the Hubs insisted on an 8x10). You can make this project very inexpensively by purchasing your frame from the dollar store. I bought a more expensive one from Hobby Lobby, but I used a great 60% off coupon, yay!

You also need either scrapbook paper, or notebook paper. I chose scrapbook paper. A single sheet cost $0.59, but it was 50% off at Hobby Lobby, so I only paid $0.30. The other necessity is dry erase markers. You can find these at the dollar store as well. I totally overpaid at $5.99 ($3.59 after my 40% off coupon), but I wanted to get everything I needed in the same store, and I was already at Hobby Lobby.

An optional item is velcro. I bought the package you see above for $1.49. I figured we should attach the marker to the frame, or I would totally lose it. Since you only need one pair of the velcro combos, I still have 5 more for future projects. I attached it to my frame with hot glue, like so:

The rest is simple... cut your paper to match the size of your frame, and place it inside the same way you would a photograph.

Write your notes with the dry erase marker, then wipe off and use again. It's that easy! So much cuter than leaving a post-it for the Hubs everyday, and we're saving paper.

This is what mine looks like complete:

You'll notice there are two different styles here. One benefit of this is you can change the scrapbook paper to match any room you want, or even just to match your mood.

BUT, the reason I changed my paper was because the polka dots (left) make it too hard to read the writing. I suggest using less patterned paper, or your eyes might permanently cross trying to read your notes!

Otherwise, this project took about 10 minutes to complete, for a total cost of $13.37 (assuming you have a glue gun). However, if you purchase your supplies at the Dollar Store, this project would only cost you a grand total of $3.79!! 

I should have gone to the Dollar Store. I know it. You know it. We all know it.

But I didn't. Learn from my mistakes, peeps.

Happy pinning, everyone!

(If you've tested a great pin, and want to share it, please email me with your ideas. I'd love to see more guest bloggers here!)

Thanks for reading, everyone!
Follow me on Facebook @ OurArmyLifeAccordingToTheWife
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April 10, 2013

Guest Post: Roasted Vegetable Couscous

I've been searching for a new guest blogger for a while now, and I finally found a willing participant!

Okaaaaaaaaay.... She may not have been willing at first, but I nagged her into it. Whatever works, people. (Also, if you'd like to guest blog without me nagging you, feel free to email me anytime with your ideas).

So, who is this person, you wonder? Well, she is a new addition to my army family, a fellow spouse. We met late last year as our husbands prepared for a deployment together. I love her approach to life (and the ups and downs of deployment), and I bet you will too.

Several wives in our circle decided to form a weekly dinner group. Each week, one wife will cook a meal and have all of the other wives over to eat, drink, and have fun. The next week is someone else's turn. And so on and so forth.

Hence (love that word!), you prepare dinner only once a month or so, but you enjoy a home-cooked meal every week.

This is totally working out for us. Not only do we enjoy each other's company, but we're all trying new food that we didn't have to cook ourselves. It's a pretty sweet deal.

On Michele's week to cook (our guest blogger), she made us a variation on a pasta salad recipe she discovered. It turned out so good, I snapped a picture with my cell phone before I dug in for seconds:

Later that week, I made the recipe at home, because I couldn't stop thinking about it.

And so did another wife!

Now that you know you can't live without this recipe, here is Michele with her first ever guest post (yay!):

OK, so since my husband left on deployment, I’ve taken the opportunity to make myself useful in the kitchen.  See, around our house, he was the cook.  With him gone, it was either spend a lot of money eating takeout all the time or cook for myself.  

Now, I’m not going to misrepresent myself as a master chef, but I can follow a recipe like a pro!  In fact, scouring the web for recipes is one of my favorite pastimes.  

The hubby is your typical meat and potatoes kind of guy.  

Don’t get me wrong...  The smell of his rib eye steak on the grill always gets my mouth watering.  

However, in an effort to take better care of myself by hitting the gym daily and eating well, I’ve been doing all sorts of research.  I’m leaning more towards vegetarianism and a trend called clean eating.  It focuses on fresh foods and good, lean quality proteins.  

In my travels around the internet I found a recipe for a Roasted Vegetables & Goat Cheese Pasta Salad on the Clean Eating Magazine site.  I liked the idea of a cold pasta salad since our kitchen heats up quickly, but wanted to switch the typical noodles with something else.  

I found the recipe very versatile because I can use any organic vegetables that are in season and make this meal throughout the year.  I modified the recipe to my taste and got to experimenting.  This is how my recipe turned out:

2 cups of uncooked Israeli couscous
1 each of red pepper, yellow pepper, orange pepper, sliced into bite size pieces
1 red onion, sliced into bite size pieces
1 zucchini, sliced into bite size pieces
1 package of cherry tomatoes cut in halves
1 clove of garlic (can be minced or whole)
2 tablespoons (more or less) of extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch of chopped chives (white & green parts)
½ bunch of fresh parsley
1 bunch of fresh basil
½ cup of white wine vinegar

For serving:

Goat cheese
Feta cheese
Pine nuts, toasted
Pumpkin seeds

Cook the couscous as directed on the package. (Note: There are many different types of couscous , and they will all work for this recipe).

Roast the peppers, red onion, and zucchini in an oven at 350F for about 15 minutes.  I usually put foil on a cookie sheet, spread the veggies out in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper if desired.  Keep an eye on the veggies around 10 minutes in as the cooking times do vary based on the type of vegetable.  Roast them to your desired tenderness.  

Photos courtesy of Army Life

In a blender, combine the garlic, chopped chives, parsley, basil, and white wine vinegar.  As this is mixing, slowly add in the olive oil through the top of the blender and enjoy the smell of that earthy, fresh basil.  I didn’t actually measure out 2 tablespoons of oil, I just added until it got to a consistency I liked.  

Combine the couscous, roasted vegetables, raw cherry tomatoes, and vinaigrette in a large bowl.  To serve, top the salad with soft, crumbled goat cheese or tart feta cheese and the toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds and chow down! 

Below are several photos from the various wives who have already tested out this recipe:

Happy cooking, my friends! I hope you enjoyed this guest post by Michele, a fellow spouse and great friend... if you make this recipe, let us know in the comments how yours turned out and what changes you made to suit your tastes.

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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April 7, 2013

Avocado Key Lime Tart

Or is it pie? If anyone out there can explain the difference to me, I'd be eternally grateful.

But for now, we'll go with Avocado Key Lime Tart. I'm thinking this is a tart because I didn't bake it (except for the crust), it's not really a traditional pie crust, and... well, the filling tastes tart.

Those most likely aren't the correct answers, but it's good enough for me.

So, I bet you're thinking this a completely random combination of flavors. I actually thought so too. I first heard of this combo while I was visiting my Fam back east, and my grandmother suggested a  Latin restaurant for launch, Pescados.

I gotta tell you, the food was fabulous. I loved the Voodoo Shrimp so much, I still dream about it.


I'm definitely considering a remake of that one. But, that's a story for another day. For now, I'll stick with dessert. Which was an Avocado Key Lime Tart... or pie. I can't remember.

Obviously, I don't have their recipe (but I wish I did!). Instead, I've spent a bit of time experimenting myself, in an attempt to re-create their fabulous idea.

Success at last!

This recipe has been through several incarnations, but I think I've hit the magic combination now. Let's get started:

Crust ingredients

We're going to start with the crust. The only sugar in this recipe is in the crust, making the tart not just delicious, but pretty healthy too. Bonus!

To begin, you need to crush 1/2 cup of pecans and 16 squares of graham crackers. I'd suggest using a food processor if you have one, but I am not that fortunate.


Please feel free to tell the Hubs about the necessities of a food processor. I'd especially like this one: Cuisinart 14-cup Food Processor or this one Kitchen Aid 13-cup Food Processor.

Until that day comes, I do things the old-fashioned way...

A rolling pin and a zilpoc bag work just as well as a food processor, when combined with a little elbow grease.

Once crushed, pour both in a bowl, and add 3 tablespoons of sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of melted butter, and an egg white. Mix it all up until well combined (you can also complete these steps in your food processor if you've got one, you lucky son of a gun).

Once combined, spread into a pie pan or tart plate, like above. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool.

Now onto the really important stuff, like the filling.

Filling ingredients

As you can see, the only "sugar" in the filling comes in the form of honey. Needless to say, this isn't a traditional sweet dessert. Yummy and outrageously good? Yes. But not in the least sugary. Think more tart and creamy as you consider the flavor profile. If you're craving brownies or something, this is not the dessert for you.

You've been warned.

To get started, use 2-3 medium (and ripe) avocados. If you don't know when an avocado is ripe, try this handy trick here. Also, a ripe avocado will be soft, not hard. If yours aren't quite ripe yet, you can speed the process along by placing them in a brown paper bag with an apple. The apple releases gases which will aid in ripening.

Slice your avocados in half, and separate the two pieces, like so:

Remove the seed, then scoop the pulp out into a mixing bowl. I like to blend my avocado first with a hand-mixer before adding the other ingredients, but that's not strictly necessary.

To the avocado pulp, add 1/2 cup vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and the zest from 2-3 key limes. (Hint: When zesting your limes, stop once you see the white part of the key lime. This part is not tart, but especially bitter. It will affect the flavor of your pie if too much of the white is zested into it).

Whirl it all around with your hand-mixer until smooth and creamy. It looks a little (ok, a lot) like green baby food when you're done.

Set this mixture aside for now.

On your stovetop, in a small saucepan, warm 1/2 cup coconut milk. Do not boil. As the milk is warming, add 1/3 cup of key lime juice to a separate, large mixing bowl.

Small note here: itty, bitty key limes are a pain in the butt to juice. However, it only took me about 5-10 minutes tops to get enough juice for 1/3 of a cup. If you want, feel free to substitute regular lime juice if you want. It will taste close to the same, but know this: Key limes are MUCH more tart than regular limes. Adjust the amount of honey you add accordingly, and perhaps amp up the juice a bit. Also, be sure to strain your juice of any seeds/pulp before using in the recipe.

Sprinkle 1 packet of unflavored gelatin over the key lime juice, and let rest one minute. To this, add your warm coconut milk and whisk for five minutes.

Yes, I said five minutes. Don't be a wimp, peeps. The top two photos (below) show this process. Your milk/juice/gelatin combo will be frothy when done.

After all the whisking, add the avocado mixture to your gelatin mixture. You can use your hand-mixer again to combine everything together.

This mixture will be a bit runny, but don't worry. It's supposed to look like that. At this time, dip your finger into the mix and taste for tartness. The flavors will develop some while setting; however, if you like it a bit more tangy, add a small amount of extra lime juice. A bit more sweet, add a tiny amount of honey.

I like it just the way it is, hence why I made the recipe this way, yes?

If your crust has cooled, then pour the avocado/key lime goodness into it. Cool uncovered, in the fridge, for several hours. I prefer to make this the day before and let rest overnight, but it's up to you.

It still looks a little like baby food, huh? No worries! After you slice it, top with whip cream and a garnish. The tart will look fabulous and taste the same. For garnish, I suggest raspberries, candied limes, or mint leaves. I didn't have all of those on hand, so I used raspberries and whip cream. The whip cream is a real necessity, as it balances the tart flavor with a little sweetness. You can use the stuff in a can or make your own. Whatever works.

And that, my friends, is Avocado Key Lime Tart! Or pie.

I know this combo seems a bit out there, but I hope you try it out. My feelings won't be hurt if you don't like it (well, maybe a little), but I'll be pleased you tried something out of your comfort zone.

Happy cooking, my friends! As always, the standard recipe is below.

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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or on Pinterest, my newest obsession ArmyLifeFromTheWife

The Standard Form:

Avocado Key Lime Tart


For the crust:
½ cup  pecans, crushed
16 squares Graham crackers, crushed
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg white

For the filling:
2-3 ripe avocados
½ cup vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 2-3 key limes
½ cup coconut milk
1/3 cup key lime juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
Whipped cream, for serving


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the all of the crust ingredients together. Spread into a pie plate or tart pan. Bake 10-12 minutes, then cool completely. Shut off oven.

Remove avocado pulp to a mixing bowl. Blend until smooth. Add the yogurt, honey, vanilla, and lime zest to the avocado pulp. Combine completely with hand mixer.

Warm coconut milk over low heat in a saucepan on the stove.

Place the key lime juice in a separate bowl. Sprinkle with the unflavored gelatin. Allow to rest one minute, then add the warmed coconut milk. Whisk for five minutes.

To the gelatin mixture, add your avocado mixture. Combine well. Mixture will be slightly runny. Taste for flavor. If desired, add a small amount of key lime juice or honey to taste.

Pour into crust. Chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, for several hours (at least 4). Cover. Can be made in advance and left to chill in fridge overnight.

April 2, 2013

Taco Crack

Yes, you read that right. I said taco crack. Ask anyone who has eaten this dip, and they will tell you:

It's highly addicting.

Like crack.

Hence the name.

Taco Crack 

I'm not sure where this recipe originated from, but I've been making it since high school, so it's been around a while. No cracks (haha) about how old I am, ok?

This past weekend, I made the Crack for a get together at my pal Tiffany's house. Since it was taco night there (actually, there's a special name for the tacos they served, but I can't remember!), this dip was a great starter. Not only simple to make, but it travels fairly easy, and everyone loves it.

If you've got ten minutes, then you have time to make this dip. Let me show you how easy it is:

The ingredients

To start, you need 2 packages of cream cheese, 16 oz of sour cream, and 2 packages of taco seasoning. If you make your own seasoning, feel free to use that instead. Someday I'll be that cool, but I'm not quite there yet.

*Note: This recipe makes enough to fill a 9x13 pan. If you'd like a smaller version, cut the ingredients in half and use an 8x8 pan instead 

Using a hand-mixer, blend together the sour cream and cream cheese, ensuring there are no lumps. Once smooth, add the taco seasoning and mix well. It should look a little something like this:

The blending takes approximately three minutes.

Then, simply spread the mix into your 9x13 pan. At this point, you can cover and let the dip rest in your refrigerator until it's time to eat. This is what I usually do, but it's not necessary.

When you're ready to eat, sprinkle with shredded lettuce, then grated cheddar cheese, and top with diced tomatoes. This take another two minutes, maybe three if you're slow.

If you want to be extra special, you could also add some chopped cilantro.


You're done! Grab some tortilla chips and dive into the Crack. But be warned: you may eat the whole pan yourself. So no fair crying to me if you put on a couple pounds, ok? I just provide the recipe.

As always, the standard recipe is below. Do you have any easy dips that you'd like to share? Email me if you're interested, I'd love to see you as a guest blogger for ArmyLife!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
Follow me on Facebook @ OurArmyLifeAccordingToTheWife
or on Pinterest, my newest obsession ArmyLifeFromTheWife

The Standard Form:

Taco Crack


16 oz. sour cream
2 (8 oz each) packages of cream cheese
2 packages taco seasoning
1.5 cups (approximately) shredded lettuce 
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
10 oz cheddar cheese, grated
Chopped cilantro (optional)
Tortilla chips, for serving


Combine the sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning with a hand-mixer. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 dish. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with the shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, and diced tomatoes. Top with chopped cilantro if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.