Mac n’ Cheesy…Easy Peasy!

A few weeks ago I had an impromptu girls night at my house with one of my friends.  During our phone conversation before she came over we found out that neither one of us had eaten dinner yet.  And it was already 8:00 pm.  The things we moms sacrifice for our kids, right?!  I told her not to worry about it, I would throw something on the stove and we could eat together.  As soon as I hung up the phone I opened my pantry doors and thought, “Oh crap.  Now what?”  I quickly assembled a dinner in the 15-20 minutes before she arrived and as we sat on the couch eating, my friend said, “I need to learn how to cook more fancy recipes like this.  This is really good.”

I wanted to laugh out loud.  My fancy recipe was…..boxed macaroni and cheese.  *GASP!*  Yes, it is true.  We occasionally eat mac n’ cheese in this house.  I know that thought horrifies some people but come on.  There are just some nights where having a quick and easy dinner you can pull out of a box saves my sanity.  I do, however, have a few tricks to make an easy dinner seem like it wasn’t quite so easy to prepare.  Here are my favorite ways to dress up boxed macaroni and cheese and create a “fancy” meal.

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseMy favorite brand to use is Annie’s.  I think they taste the best out of the different options but you can obviously use whichever kind you prefer!

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN Cheese

The first “recipe” adds steamed broccoli and toasted bread crumbs to the Shells & Real Aged Cheddar.  While the water is boiling/noodles cooking I throw some frozen broccoli in the steamer and then toast the bread crumbs in some melted butter.  For one box of macaroni I melt 1 teaspoon of butter in a small pan and stir in 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs.  Then I just let them saute, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown and slightly crispy.

Mix the broccoli into the pasta and then sprinkle the top with your toasted bread crumbs and a handful of cheddar cheese.  Seriously, yum.  I honestly don’t know why adding two little ingredients makes such a big difference but it is really good.  And my two year old will chow down on it, broccoli included.  That’s a win right there.

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseThe next variation uses the Shells & White Cheddar and adds peas and shredded chicken.  Chicken tenderloins cook faster than chicken breasts so I prefer to use those if I’m in a hurry.  (Or if you’re really pressed for time there is no shame in using canned chicken.  I won’t tell!)  Take 3 or 4 tenderloins and season each side with some salt and pepper.  Place them in a foil lined baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.  While that is baking cook your noodles!  Right before you drain the pasta add in about a cup of frozen peas.  The warm water and noodles will be all you need to thaw the peas.  Shred the chicken when it is finished cooking and mix into the pasta.  Sprinkle the top with some Parmesan cheese.

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN Cheese

The final twist adds just a hint of spiciness and bacon.  And when you add bacon to anything it automatically makes it awesome.  It’s a known fact.  While waiting for your pasta, cook your bacon slices and chop into bite sized pieces.  After making the macaroni and cheese stir in about 3 Tablespoons, or 1 small 2 oz. jar, of pimentos.  I wouldn’t mix the bacon bits in because they’ll get soggy if you have any leftovers so just sprinkle the bacon and some pepper-jack cheese over the top.  Tasty!

3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseIf you serve any of these variations with a side of bread or a small salad then pat yourself on the back, mama.  You just put together one “fancy” meal for your family.  Or your unsuspecting friend, whatever the case may be.  :)

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3 Simple Ways to Dress Up Boxed MacN CheeseAre there any other variations out there you’ve thought of?  I’d love to hear any other ideas on how you find ways to dress up simple, quick meals!


Scripture-a-Day Focusing on Christ

I wish I could take credit for this wonderful idea but it isn’t completely mine.  A few weeks ago we had an activity at church and they handed out little journals with a reading chart glued onto the front cover.  The chart had a scripture a day to read from now until Christmas that focused on different attributes of Christ.  I LOVE the idea of taking a small amount of time each day to read a scripture and keep Christ more fully in my mind and heart this holiday season.  It is such a small act but I can feel a difference in my days and I think this will help make my holidays more meaningful as I focus on the true reasons behind them.  These upcoming weeks are busy and hectic, and I actually love all the hustle and bustle, but I also love taking a minute or two each day to refocus and remember what is really important.

Reading Chart with a Scripture-a-Day from now until Christmas that focuses on Christlike attributes.

I have created a chart to share with you with Bible scriptures that start on Sunday (Nov. 15th) and go all the way until Christmas.  Each week has a different “theme” to it and the theme focuses on an attribute of Christ and how it can/should apply to us.  I purposely didn’t put any dates on this chart or make it super Christmas-y so that it could be used at any time of the year but if you start on Sunday there is one a day until Christmas.

Reading Chart with a Scripture-a-Day from now until Christmas that focuses on Christlike attributes.I love this time of year for so many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is the opportunity I have to grow closer to my Savior and develop the relationship I have with Him.  Hopefully this will also help you keep Him nearer in your thoughts and hearts this season.

Download the PDF

Reading Chart with a Scripture-a-Day from now until Christmas that focuses on Christlike attributes.

White and Gold Thanksgiving Display

Has everyone recovered from their Halloween festivities?  This was the first year we actually took our daughter trick or treating and once she figured out what was going on she was all about the candy.  “What?!?  People give me candy if I’m cute?  I so got this.”  It was a lot of fun and I must say, my kids make the cutest little Mouseketeers ever.

White and Gold Thanksgiving Fall Display with Free PrintableConfession time though.  When we got home we put our daughter’s candy in a “special cupboard” so she could save it for later, and the next day she never asked about it.  And she hasn’t mentioned it since.  So it is still sitting in the cupboard and I’ve slowly been stealing a little piece at a time.  That’s what parents do though, right?  I’m pretty sure there is an official Candy Tax all parents are owed.  :)

Now that we are in November it seems like Christmas everything is popping up every which way I look.  And while I love that, because I LOVE Christmas, I also want to make sure Thanksgiving gets it’s time too.  Because I love a holiday that is focused on family, gratitude, giving, and good food.  So while it may seem like a short month between now and putting up the Christmas decorations I didn’t want to skip on my Thanksgiving/Fall display.  I put together a pretty white and gold vignette and the soft sparkle and glow makes me smile every time I walk by.

White and Gold Thanksgiving Fall Display with Free PrintableI wish I had remembered to take a before picture of this cornucopia and the pumpkins inside but the sugar high from eating my daughter’s Halloween candy must be messing with my mind because I completely forgot.  I’ve had the cornucopia for years and it was definitely showing it’s age.  Wicker and a very unattractive brown color…it had seen better days.  But a fresh coat of white paint brought new life into it.  And the little pumpkins inside are cheap little things from the dollar store that I spray painted gold.

White and Gold Thanksgiving Fall Display with Free PrintableI picked up the tall gold goblets at TJ Maxx, and then everything else I already had around the house.  I do what I always do when putting together these holiday displays and shop my own house first.  I’ll walk through each room and look around to see what I can find that matches my theme.    And of course I usually create a new print for each holiday.

White and Gold Thanksgiving Fall Display with Free PrintableI’m sharing my print with you so you can use it in your own home if you’d like!

Download the PDF

With a Grateful Heart Thanksgiving PrintableAll together I love the way this vignette looks.  It turned out so pretty and was quick and easy to put together.  It really does make me smile when I walk in the front door and see it welcoming me into my home.

White and Gold Thanksgiving Fall Display with Free PrintableWhite and Gold Thanksgiving Fall Display with Free Printable

Printable Harry Potter Potion Labels

I’m going to let you in on a little secret… I’m a big time Harry Potter nerd.  My love for Harry Potter is right up there with my love of all things Jane Austen and Disney.  So when I decorate for Halloween I can’t help but sneak a little bit of ol’ HP in there.

When I found some cute little bottles at Michaels I knew they would be perfect for some mini potion bottles.  I gathered my supplies and got my crafting on.

Printable Harry Potter Potion LabelsI used Mod Podge on the back of the labels to wrap them around and glue them to the bottle.

Printable Harry Potter Potion LabelsI was worried that the Mod Podge would make the ink smear on the front so I opted to use a spray on lacquer for a top coat.  And if after spraying the lacquer on some person had accidentally left the bottles on a table to dry in the backyard while the sprinklers came on, then that person could attest to the fact that the lacquer works well and protects the paper from water.  If that had happened.  I’m not saying it did, but…it might have.

Printable Harry Potter Potion LabelsAnd there you have it!  Mini potion bottles perfect for the Harry Potter fan, or just anyone looking to add a little something extra to their Halloween decor.

Printable Harry Potter Potion Labels Printable Harry Potter Potion Labels Printable Harry Potter Potion LabelsI created the labels in black and white and a sepia tone so you can have your choice!

Download the PDF- Black and White

Download the PDF- Sepia

Harry Potter Potion LabelsHarry Potter Potion Labels Sepia

A Treat For Me = A Treat For You

I recently had a dream where I was hiding in our greenhouse (we don’t actually have one) and I was desperately trying to protect a box of chocolates and a plate of donuts from the terrorists outside.  There I was crouching behind a potted palm, grasping a box of chocolates and donuts, and planning my escape route to get past the terrorists just waiting to take my delicious treats away.  Serious stuff.  When I awoke two things were immediately clear.  One: I probably need someone to evaluate me and tell me what is wrong in my head, and two: I love chocolate.  I actually didn’t need a dream to tell me the second part.  Whether I am awake or asleep I will never say no to chocolate.  If you like chocolate as much as me, then read on.  You’ll have a chance to enter a giveaway to win some free chocolate of your very own!

You can imagine my joy when I recently had the chance to try a product from  Do you need to hear anything other than that name right there?  Sign me up!  I was just a little excited when my package arrived in the mail containing Devilishly Delicious Chocolate Covered Cookies from Givens and Company.  The cookies arrived in a beautiful tin with a pretty little bow on top.  This would be so nice to send to someone as a present.  Who wouldn’t love getting such a pretty gift?

Chocolate Giveaway and Printable Halloween Treat Bag Toppers

When I opened up the tin the cookies were a bit melted but that is only because I live on the surface of the sun, aka Phoenix.  Can’t really complain about melted chocolate when it is approximately 1,284 degrees outside.  I placed the tin in the fridge for awhile to let the chocolate harden and let me tell you, the melting did not affect the taste at all.  They were so yummy!  I had a hard time saving enough to take pictures between myself, my husband, and our daughter.  We couldn’t stop at just one.  I especially love white chocolate and these spoke to my very soul.

Delicous Chocolate Covered Cookies from and Givens and CompanyI was worried that we would sit and eat them all in one go, because they were honestly that good, so I decided to put together a couple of little treat bags and take them to some friends.  I really appreciated that each cookie came individually wrapped which made it really easy to share them with friends.

Free Printable Treat Bag Toppers, perfect for Halloween!

Free Printable Treat Bag Toppers, perfect for Halloween!

And of course you know I have to share the cute treat bag topper with you.  The topper will fit perfectly on a little baggie which you can fill with any candy or treat you’d like.  Fun for friends, trick or treaters, to tuck into your kid’s lunch box, or take to the ladies you visit teach.

Download the PDF- Eek, Shriek, & Be Scary Treat Bag Toppers

To stay in the loop in all things chocolate you can follow on twitter @choctweets.

Now here is the fun part.  When I get a treat, so do you!


$40 Giveaway, ends Monday 10/12!

If you head over to Instagram I am giving away a $40 gift certificate to  All you have to do is follow me on Instagram @darlingdoodlesdesign and leave a comment on the post to enter!  And you could win $40 to spend on all the chocolate your heart desires.  Chocolate lovers, unite!  The giveaway will run through Monday at midnight and winner  announced on Tuesday.  Good luck!

A special thank you to and Givens and Company for making this great giveaway possible!  And for bringing delicious chocolate to people everywhere!  The next time you are looking for a treat for yourself or someone else I would not hesitate to recommend  They were great to work with, the package arrived quickly, I was very pleased with the taste (YUM!) as well as the appearance, and had a great experience overall.

Halloween Decor & Easy Ribbon Banner

One thing I have really missed sharing the last few months is my different holiday displays.  In our old apartment I had a shelf in our living room that I changed out with each holiday and/or season.  It was the perfect set up, it hung right by the front door so everyone could see it and it added just enough holiday flare to the room without having to go overboard on the decorations every other month.

When we moved I finally had space in my home for one piece of furniture that I had been wanting forever… a piano!  My grandmother left me her piano but I have never had a place to put it before.  I am so happy to finally have it in my home and for the chance I get to sit and play every so often.  It has also provided the perfect new spot for my holiday set ups.  It is the first thing you see when you walk in our front door.

_DSC0754Things are looking spooky and SPARKLY around here.  Just because Halloween is all about scary ghosts and things like death doesn’t mean your decorations can’t be fabulous, right? Or would that be fa-boo-lous?  :) I tempered the bright orange, green, and purple by mixing in a lot of white pieces.  You might also notice the DIY Spooky Candles hiding in the back.

Spooky and Sparkly Halloween DecorationsSpooky and Sparkly Halloween DecorationsI created the ribbon banner hanging over my window frame and it was such an easy craft!  And totally changeable for any holiday or color scheme.  I started by gathering a bunch of fabric scraps, ribbons, and raiding the left over bins at the fabric store.

_DSC0069Using a fabric cutter I cut out strips 1 inch wide and 7 inches long.  This was probably the most tedious part because I cut out a lot of fabric strips.  And if you want a really long banner you’ll need A LOT of pieces.  You can also cut your pieces a little wider so they’ll take up more space along the banner.

_DSC0177Then the easy part, tying the pieces onto another ribbon or some twine.  I taped one end of a piece of twine onto my coffee table and then just randomly tied the strips along it.

_DSC0209And kept going until the banner was full with lots of colors.  If you have lots of fabric scraps this is an easy way to use them up!  I found the little web and spider at the Dollar Tree and hung it from the center of the banner.  Honestly, lots of the decor came from the Dollar Tree.  The purple flowers, the green sign, the glittery pumpkins, all $1!  Can’t beat it!

Easy Ribbon Banner TutorialEasy Ribbon Banner Tutorial and Halloween Decorations


And now in totally unrelated news, I have FINALLY started an Instragram for Darling Doodles.  I’ve had a personal one for years but I’ve always kept it private.  So now I have a separate account set up to share behind the scenes, glimpses into my home and life, and there will probably a picture or two of some very cute kiddos.  I would love if you would hop on over and follow me @darlingdoodlesdesign.  Another reason you might want to follow?  Later this week I’ll be doing a giveaway on Instagram and let’s just say there is chocolate involved.  And it is good.