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College Ready: sharing what I’ve already learned (part two)

17 Aug

We spent one full day and shopped til we dropped, hitting three major stores to get the bulk of what we needed. We scored deal after deal.

Earlier this week I shared Part One of my College Ready posts. I don’t know it all, I don’t even know as much as other people know, but in a short time, I’ve learned a lot that I can at least share out. Those who need to know can add it to what they’ve learned, save it for later when they need it, or toss it.

Here’s what I’ve learned: college is expensive, and college needs are expensive. We hear a lot about tuition, room and board, and books all being expensive, but what people don’t really talk much about is the huge expense of getting a student ready to live on campus. Not everyone lives on campus, but if your student is going to, start early saving some money for dorm expenses if you can, and start saving coupons and watching for deals. Get those deals when you can and put them aside if you have to. Shopping for something big like this is like a sport. You need a strategy. Here is our strategy.

Many people know that Bed Bath & Beyond prides themselves in being a go-to for college dorm shopping. (And no, I don’t make any commission off of these posts from them.) When you tour dorms there are often BB&B advertisements in the rooms which have been outfitted by the local store, and you see their ads often on social media, television and in print. Their coupons arrive in the mail regularly: 20% off one item, $5 off your total purchase over $15 and $10 off your total purchase over $30. You can even order all of your dorm room supplies online and have them shipped to the local BB&B near your school so that you can pick them up when you arrive for move-in day.

My advice is simple: save every single coupon. Don’t ever throw them away. They have expiration dates on them but they don’t actually expire. They  will accept them forever, and they let you use more than one per shopping trip. Take every single one of them with you if you choose to shop at BB&B for college dorm needs. More importantly, save every coupon to every store that you get during this shopping time and make the most of the deals that pop up as you see them. You may not realize you need something and you don’t want to throw away a good deal.

We opted to first use any store gift cards our daughter had received as graduation gifts towards her college shopping needs. We advised her to save any visa gift cards for books, since we had a little bit of money put away for shopping already, and to save any Amazon gift cards as well, unless we found something cheaper on Amazon (which we didn’t).  We would combine any gift cards with coupons and then after exhausting that option, we’d use the money I’d put aside from January to June with coupons next. This would not touch the money in her savings account at all, which would be saved for when she was living at school.

She had the most in gift cards at BB&B, then at Target, and although we did not have a gift card to At Home, it was my birthday in August and I’d received a “15% off your whole purchase” coupon. She signed up for their loyalty program and received a “10% off your whole purchase” coupon too, but we didn’t need it. Additionally, we visited Five Below, where everything is $5 or less, and looked to see what we could get there since she had a small gift card there and they have some cute dorm decor items. We planned to save our trip to Walmart for last because although it’s slightly cheaper than Target or BB&B, we would be paying entirely out of pocket with no coupons or gift cards at all, and it ended up being cheaper for us to shop with gift cards and coupons first, exhausting all of those before Walmart.

You can make money-saving magic happen with your coupons if you’re strategic.

Just in our BB&B shopping alone, we saved $100 in coupons (we used a total of 14 coupons in two visits, six one time and eight the next time, and we have some left if we need them) and we used $150 in gift cards, only paying $165 out of pocket total-and only on the second trip-the first trip was totally free. We got the bulk of what we needed there, from a comforter set to all of the under the bed, next to the bed and above the bed storage items. We also got a few decorative items there. We saved $21 at the At Home Store with my birthday coupon, and used $30 in Target gift cards before paying anything out of pocket at either store.

Since we don’t know if we’re 100% correct in everything we’re getting, we are saving every receipt. At BB&B they also told us to save all the packaging for returns as well. A good friend once said to me, “You know, it is possible to over-shop,” and I can totally see how that can happen. There is SO MUCH out there and there are so many suggestions of “must haves.” I tried to look at several lists and compare them to each other, and to listen to other people’s advice as well as knowing what we already had or didn’t have before we shopped. If I saw something come up on every single list and it matched up with what other people told me we’d need, it definitely went on to our list as well. If it was something we already had at home and could spare, we tried not to duplicate. We looked at her room layout to see what we thought would fit, and where. Some things just seemed over the top, or extra. We tried to balance having some cute decor items with having the more functional items first and foremost. Some nice-to-haves are okay, but the must-haves had to come first. We were lucky too, that a friend gave us her daughter’s memory foam mattress pad, which everyone now calls a “must have,” but which is very expensive. (Those didn’t exist when I went to school, I had a foam egg crate topper.) I found this type of shopping to be very similar to when we outfitted our RV for the first time. Function was first and foremost, space-saving was key, and money-saving was of the utmost importance.

So now, we wrap up, picking up the last few little things over the next week or so and then start to pack up and move on out. We’ll see how well we did once she moves in; how on the mark we were, what we still might need or what needs to be returned. Keeping our fingers crossed that we are more on the mark than off!

Fingers crossed…

 

 

College Ready: sharing what I’ve already learned (part one)

15 Aug

What exactly do they need?

They say you don’t know what you don’t know, and that is so true for so many situations throughout life. As a mom to a new, soon-to-be-on-campus college freshman, that saying could not be more true. As an educator to the core, I feel the need to share with others what I’ve learned so far along the way so that I can help other parents the way that others who’ve gone down this path first, have also helped me. Last fall, I wrote an article called Navigating a family’s first senior year. I feel like I am now ready to write the next article in that series.

So, here goes. I’m separating this information into two blog posts so that it’s not too long or too overwhelming.

Here is what I’ve learned so far, that I think is worthy enough to pass along to you.

First and foremost: ask around. This process is all new since we parents went to college, if in fact we parents went to college, as not everyone does. Social media is new, technology is new, online ordering is new, memory foam is new, HIPPA is new, it’s all new. Everything. So other than remembering what my dorm looked like and my basic needs, lots of other stuff isn’t the same. Ask those who have done it before, and research. Read blog posts, read other people’s experiences-good or bad-and then take from them what you wish, and discard the rest. That’s the same advice I always have for new moms: Everyone will give you a ton of information, so listen and use some and politely ignore the rest. We are parents who are starting all over again at the new mom and dad thing, just in a different way. Beginning I’m not sure when, but really focusing this past school year, I did just that. I read, I researched, I asked and I listened, and I made lists.

I also began to put a little bit of money aside after Christmas. This sounds obvious, and it’s way easier said than done, believe me, I know. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was putting money aside for yet either, but I knew we’d be needing it, and I was right. It wasn’t for the college fund, and it wasn’t her savings account money for living on during college, it was different money. Each time I got paid, I’d put some random amount into her checking account from mine, whatever I thought we could spare at the time, and she’d move it over into her savings account. I’m sure that it made me lacking some other money somewhere else for something else, but it allowed me to have a stash ready, designated for expenses for whenever we needed it.

“What is this money for?” she’d ask.

“I don’t know yet,” I’d answer. “But I know it’s going to be for something.”

In the spring, the college deposit was due. Some of the money went to that. In July a small registration fee was due for a September activity, so some of the money went to that. The rest would be spent on dorm supplies when we shopped. (That will be in my next post.) These were things a college loan wouldn’t necessarily cover, they didn’t fall under tuition or room and board, but they were needed, and they were costly, and they had to be done. I wish now that I’d put more money aside, starting sooner, as I found the last month of senior year to be extremely expensive with all of the graduation events (she had three different ceremonies) and clothes/shoes/jewelry needed for each, as well as for her prom, and even things like the meals we hosted for family after the graduation events and the party itself, so keep all that in mind as you go forward.

Additionally, throughout the year, I started picking up random things and putting them aside in her college laundry bag that we’d given her already for her 18th birthday, filled with a few college-ready gifts. Soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, laundry and dish detergent etc., all went into the bag during the year, even more frequently as the spring approached. At my CVS, any time I saw a “buy one, get one half off” deal, I’d buy one for us and throw the “get one half off” item into her bag. If I saw something on clearance she’d need, I’d grab it and throw it into her bag. By the summertime, her bag was full, having started off half-full at her birthday.

This is a great gift for recent high school grads who are going to be living on campus.

Before the summer even hit though, I asked people whose kids had “been there” already, what she’d really need. I got two great tips that I want to pass along to you. I used them both as graduation gifts for her and for others.

The first is a gift they need to have, but you hope they won’t actually need. The mom of student finishing her freshman year recommended a well-stocked first aid kit. She listed off a bunch of items kids need that they don’t necessarily want to go to the health services building for, like a band aid or a cough drop, but that they don’t always think to have. I loved this idea. We get sick all the time over here, and have a ton of bumps along the way too, so I decided to definitely do this as a gift for my own daughter, as well as some close family members. I bought $3 buckets at Target that I found in the “under $5” bins, and I filled them. I did generic things everyone needs, like a digital thermometer and band aids and cough drops, cotton balls, ice packs, etc., much of which can be found at a Dollar Store, for just $1 each. Several things came in multi-packs of individual items, like a three-pack of hand sanitizer, which I’d break up into three individuals for three gifts. For my own daughter I added in additional items, or full-sized items, some more costly, like the certain sunscreen she uses, or a big tube of stain stick, and bug spray. I filled the bins and wrapped them in cellophane with a ribbon (all found at the Dollar Store too) and gave them out.

My daughter took off on that idea, and for her own friends, she gave them buckets as well, but filled them with school supplies (markers, pens, pencils, paper clips, ruler, white out, etc.,) and threw in some band aids and cough drops as well, all for under $20 a bucket, including the bucket. We wrapped them the same way and they made great gifts.

This reminded me that she also needed her own school/desk supplies, so we later made her a bin of those as well. Everything we always have here, on hand throughout the school year, she’ll need there.

This was a fun gift to make and to give.

The next great gift idea, I received from a co-worker whose son was about to graduate college as my daughter was graduating high school. I was stumped as to what to give her for gifts at the time we spoke. Her son had also attended an out of state school, so she had given him gift cards for places that were in the city where he’d be attending school. I thought that was a fun idea, and since our daughter’s school was out of state, but not too far away, one of my best friends and I took a day’s ride up and back, grabbing a bunch of little gift cards to places that were near her school. Some were to places that we don’t have here, but we also spotted some places that we do have here, so I continued to shop for gift cards even after that day trip. Some spots were less expensive, so we got $10 gift cards and some were more so we got $15. One place was a sit-down restaurant she likes, so I got a $25 gift card there.

I filled out the front sections for our gift cards, and she filled out the rest for others she’d received.

Once I had them all, I decided to get a cute organizer from Target for her to keep all her gift cards in, as I knew she’d be getting more from other people and she had been saving a bunch at home as well. I added in restaurant menus if they had them, and figured she could throw in coupons to the places she had gift cards for, if she had any.

This was a great gift, a fun day trip for me, and it made me more familiar with the area in which she’d be spending her time. My friend was my co-pilot that day and she kept a running list of local places we saw so that as time goes on, if someone were to ask me what she needs for a birthday gift or a holiday gift, I can say, “There’s a CVS right next to her campus, get her a gift card there,” or to any other place I now know is up there. If we want to add to her collection ourselves for gifts in the future, we can.

There are so many great gift ideas out there, and I know that there are different philosophies on gifts. Some feel that helping to pay for college IS the gift and that’s what they give. Others take a big trip as a gift or send their child off on a trip with someone else as their gift. For us, this worked out well and it made for a fun afternoon after graduation when she opened her gifts. They weren’t expensive to pull off, and during a super-expensive time of year, that was a blessing in itself. It was just enough and will last her throughout her school year(s). They were fun, but they were functional too. Even the gift card holder can be re-purposed in the future. The labels can be labeled over, and the hashtag sign is on there with removable tape. I really tried to think ahead and be practical. (By the way, in case you’re not sure, HANGRY is a combination of Hungry and Angry, which is a popular word with kids now, but also didn’t exist before. I’ve also witnessed Hangry with my own kids, and it’s real and a perfect description.)

Stay tuned for my next post, and I’ll pass along anything I can about dorm room shopping that I’ve learned so far. I’m not a pro, and we’re not even to the point of moving her in yet, but I’ve already learned a ton and I will pass it on.

What’s for dinner Wednesday: A new recipe and a new Cave Tools cooking tool

8 Aug

This was a favorite new meal of ours, thanks to our new Cave Tools BBQ Grill Pan, and I can’t wait to have it again.

Happy August!

This summer seems to just be flying by. We had just finished the whirlwind couple of weeks surrounding graduation when I last wrote a blog post, and that was followed by two weeks of vacation. We came back from that and went right into the final days of planning and then hosting our second daughter’s 16th birthday party here, a sunflower-themed Sweet Sixteen on a beautifully sunny day. Now that we’re back into a regular routine again, albeit a summer routine, we’ve been trying out some new recipes and even a brand new Cave Tools product.

We were asked to try out a newly launched product, the Cave Tools BBQ Grill Pan in July, around the same time that I kept seeing a recipe go by on social media for Sheet Pan Chicken, which consisted of oven-roasted veggies and chicken all tossed together in a homemade marinade and cooked in the oven. When we agreed to try out the BBQ Grill Pan, we opted to use the inspiration from the recipe we’d seen online, but to do it our own way, utilizing our new pan. It seemed to be made for such a meal because it had a slotted side and a flat side, with the slotted side designed to allow the BBQ flavors and smoke to come up through the grill pan while excess grease falls through, keeping our grill grates clean.

One pan cooking is my favorite, especially for clean up.

We tossed our chicken in some bottled Italian dressing for a quick marinade, and sliced up our veggies: asparagus, zucchini, squash, Brussels sprouts and carrots. We weren’t sure if we had more veggies and chicken than space, but it was a perfect fit, with the veggies on the flat side and the chicken on the slotted side.  We also liked that the stainless steel pan had grips on three sides so that it was easy to handle.

The new Cave Tools BBQ Grill Pan is designed to cook more than just chicken and veggies, though. It’s perfect for other types of meals, including breakfast, which we’d like to try out next. Cave Tools suggests using the griddle side for sautéing peppers, onions, eggs, bacon, cheesesteaks and any other food that would typically fall through the grill grates, but the idea of eggs and bacon really appeals to us, having never cooked like that on the grill before.

Cave Tools 3

This stainless steel grill pan features a flat side and a slotted side, with grips on three sides.

I’m sure you’d like to know how you can get this great new product!

To order your own Cave Tools BBQ Grill Pan, you have two options:

  1. You can order from Amazon
  2. You can order directly from Cave Tools and use the code GRILLPAN15 to receive an additional 15% off your purchase.

As I always say, the Cave Tools products have a 100% money back guarantee, but I’d be surprised if you ever needed it. Their products are second to none. We also saw this post in the information on the grill pan’s website that we thought was worth noting, and that also speaks to the value that Cave Tools puts on the quality of their products for their customers:

A Note From The Manufacturer

We specifically designed this grill pan after seeing the popularity of PTFE (Teflon) Grill Mats. At normal grilling temperatures we concluded that the grill mats were in fact extremely toxic and potentially cancerous. Your health is more important us than the money we could make selling grill mats which is why we designed this safe stainless steel grill mat alternative.

As always, I encourage you to try out this great new product and to enjoy the fun of cooking outdoors. The cleanup is easy, especially with the Cave Tools products, and the food is flavorful.

Have a great rest of your week and keep enjoying this beautiful summer!

*I was given a free product in exchange for my review.

However, as always, my thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.*

Fun Friday: One-bowl brownies from Gluten-Free Living

6 Oct

Since finding this recipe at the end of the summer, we have made it at least four or five times.

Recently, I mentioned that when we cleaned out our kitchen to be redone, I had a huge pile of recipes and cookbooks to go through once we were ready to reload. In that pile was also a small pile of Gluten-Free Living magazines that I had put aside as they came in every other month, hoping for a day to go through them with my daughter.

At some point near the middle of August we found a day and we went through and pulled out any recipes we wanted to try, and recycled the rest of the magazines. Today’s recipe is one of the ones we pulled out to try. It’s from the newest issue, the September/October 2017 magazine that had just come in August. It is for a one-bowl recipe for brownies. I love anything that has very little cleanup, so one bowl appeals to me. I also love my new glass mixing bowl that I got in the springtime when my old plastic bowl broke, so I looked forward to the chance to use it as our one bowl.

This recipe was so easy that my daughter, who is 12, could make the whole thing by herself, with very little direction or help from me, other than some clarifying details. Additionally, I always enjoy a good teachable moment in the kitchen, and I loved showing her how the brownie batter doesn’t start out dark, but becomes so when you add in the unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s a simple thing, but when we make them out of a box, they start out chocolatey, so it was unusual for her to see the transition from a plain batter to a chocolate batter.

Like magic, it becomes chocolatey.

 

I’ll never not use parchment paper again.

In the months since we made this recipe for the first time, we have used it at least four or five more times, and we have doubled it depending on how many we were baking for. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s delicious. More importantly, people say that it doesn’t taste gluten-free. The brownies are thick and fudgy, just as brownies should be.

We started a new baking habit with this recipe and actually followed the directions for lining the bowl with parchment paper, which we sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. I always skipped doing this in the past, just spraying my baking dish, but my daughter wanted to use the paper, and we had it, and we’ll never go back to not using it again. The cleanup is super easy and the brownies can be lifted out, cooled and cut right on the paper.

Here is the recipe, I hope you’ll give it a try!

One-Bowl Brownies
from Gluten-Free Living magazine

Makes 12 brownies

Ingredients

non-stick cooking spray

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend (they recommended Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour, which we use as well.)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing the edges to hang over the side. This makes removal easy. Spray the foil or parchment paper lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together butter and granulated sugar until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined. Add the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir batter until smooth.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. A cake tester inserted into the center of the pan should come out with a few damp crumbs clinging to it.

Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack, about two hours.

Lift the brownies from the pan using the foil, cut into squares.

Missing in action, but for good reasons!

4 Aug

We spent two weeks camping at the beginning of the summer, and enjoying sunsets like this one every night.

Hello and happy August!

Yes, I know it’s August.

And yes, I know I haven’t posted a blog post in a very long time, and I am here to say that although I have been MIA for a while, it’s been for good reasons and that we are all well!

When school ended at the end of June, we had one week and then we were very lucky to head almost immediately into two weeks of vacation for the first two weeks of July. We took the camper to a state campground right here in our very own state for a much-needed Staycation. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, nor could the location. We had an amazing time enjoying each other, our friends and the treasure that is our home state. So often we feel the need to go away to get away, and although we technically did go away, it was only about a half hour away, but yet we felt as if we were away-away.

We spent two very relaxing weeks reading, resting and getting our energy back from a busy school year, but also getting ourselves ready for a huge kitchen renovation project ahead.

In the meantime, we were getting ourselves ready for a huge project that we’d be in the thick of once we were home from our two weeks. We were going to be finishing up a kitchen renovation project that we started, somewhat unexpectedly, last February 2016.

Our old kitchen was out-dated and in need of pretty much everything.

As a family who does a whole lot of cooking, we have always been frustrated that we had a pretty small, closed in, cramped and out-dated kitchen. In February 2016 we were given a generous gift: all new appliances. We were so excited when they arrived, and we could not wait to use them all. Our old dishwasher hadn’t worked in a couple of years, our old fridge no longer made ice or dispensed water on the door, and our old stove didn’t cook things properly or consistently.

When the delivery guy from the store brought in our new appliances, he commented that the layout of our kitchen, with the stove and fridge so close together, was odd and not usually recommended. The layout had always been this way since the house was built in 1976, and we really had no other options than the way it was, so he put the new ones just as the old ones had been.

What could possibly happen?

What could possibly go wrong?

Within weeks, our new stove was melting the side of our new fridge.

Panic set in as we realized we had to quickly fix the situation. We opted to do a partial renovation of our kitchen last year in order to remedy the problem as best we could at the time. So last April we ripped out one set of cabinets and counter tops and ripped out five layers of flooring in order to move our fridge into a new spot. It meant getting a new tile floor (which we also needed badly) and putting up some new wall covering, and painting. Once we did all of that, we put in some temporary cabinets and a temporary counter top where the fridge used to be and then stopped where we were and took more than a year “off” to regroup, save some money and ready ourselves for the rest of the project.

This always-cluttered back counter and cabinet space would soon be a new home for our new fridge.

This summer our focus was taking down a wall to knee wall height in order to open up our kitchen and dining area a bit, and replacing all of the rest of the kitchen cabinets and counter tops.

We took out a wall to open up our space significantly.

In order to keep costs down, we did all of the demolition ourselves and assembled our kitchen cabinets ourselves too, rather than having our contractor or the cabinet store do any of it for us. I use the words “we” and “us” quite liberally, since I wasn’t the one actually doing a lot of the manual labor. I did my part, emptying and later re-loading the kitchen, and helped with demolition and assembly in any way I could. Even the kids helped out with demolition, happy to put a hammer to a wall and put a hole through it with permission.

As I type this post, we are about 3/4 of the way done. Our demolition was started before we went camping and finished when we returned, and our contractor arrived the very next week to do the work we couldn’t do on our own. That one week was a bit chaotic, although not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be.

Our kitchen was a mix of old and new for more than a year before we continued with our renovation project this summer, knocking down a wall and taking out the rest of the old cabinets.

Now, we are down to waiting for our new counter tops and sink to arrive so that we can stop doing dishes in our bathroom sink and tub.

We still have a lot to do, and I am sure we will be finishing up this project for quite a while, with a tile backsplash still to go in and touch up painting still to be done on the walls and ceiling, but it’ll be more complete than it’s been in a long time, and for that, I am thankful.

Below are some photos of where we are at right now as we are awaiting the arrival of our granite counters and our kitchen sink this weekend.

I will end my post with a promise that I will eventually post again soon, but it may be a little while longer until I do. At least for now, while you wait, you know what I’m doing instead!

A new home for the refrigerator solved our melting problem.

Looking in from the dining room, which we can do now that the wall is gone.

 

 

 

We can hardly remember what it looked like when the wall was there.

Cave Tools Pigtail Food Flipper: a great new tool for summer grilling

30 Jun

We’ll be taking these with us to the campground this summer!

It’s officially summer! Summer means so many things, but one thing it means for us is grilling. Another thing it means for us is camping.When we camp, we grill! Therefore, I was very excited when Cave Tools asked me to try out another one of their fabulous products. I have reviewed several of their other grilling tools and have yet to be disappointed.

The Pigtail Food Flippers arrived on our doorstep just as we were creating our menu for a week’s worth of meals, and we put steaks right on the menu so we could try out our new tool. We would be grilling at home, but soon we will be camping and we’ll be grilling over a campfire. These new tools, a pair of two-one longer and one shorter-seemed to be perfect for all the grilling we do. Although we were doing steaks on this particular night, the tools are great for so many other things, including bacon, chicken, hot dogs and ribs, just to name a few ideas.

The Pigtail Food Flipper was great for grilling steaks, but it has many other uses as well.

When I asked my husband what he liked about the new Pigtail Food Flippers versus using a spatula, a fork or tongs, he said that the shape of the hook which made for easy flipping.

“I liked the way the hook was shaped,” he said. “All you had to do was hook the meat and flip it rather than trying to get a spatula underneath. I also liked that it came in two sizes, I didn’t have to use a big one for a small piece of meat and I won’t have to use a small one for a big piece.”

The tool was super-easy to clean because they’re dishwasher safe, and to store, which is a big plus for a small kitchen. Additionally, the handles fit well into the palm of your hand, much more comfortable than the flat form of a spatula.

You can find this great new tool set in two places and it’s very affordable. It’s on Amazon here, and on the Cave Tools website here. If you choose to order from the Cave Tools site, there is a great 15% off discount available by entering the coupon code PIGTAIL15 at checkout.

As we pack up for camping, we’ll be including our Pigtail Flippers, and I encourage you to check them out too!

 

***I was given a free product in order to do this review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.***

 

Fun Friday: Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes

9 Jun

If you’re looking for a new summertime dessert, this one comes highly recommended!

We don’t entertain often, but when we do, I like to try out new things. We are generally among friends and family so the “never try out new things for guests” rule gets bent a little bit, if I think it’s a new thing that I can pull off relatively easily.

Last Wednesday I shared our Burger Bar post from the previous Sunday’s get-together and I promised I’d share two other recipes. Today’s is one and I’ll still have another one for you coming up in a future post as well.

I was looking for a summery dessert to serve that Sunday, something different than brownies or cookies. I came across this recipe by Life, Love and Sugar and thought it would be different and something I could make gluten free, which is always a consideration. My grandmother has always made mini cherry cheesecakes which are my absolute favorite, and this reminded me of those. Additionally, they were summery and a little bit patriotic looking, which was an added bonus.

I had gluten free graham cracker crumbs on hand and I also had gluten free graham crackers in the freezer if I had needed to use them to make my own crumbs, which I didn’t need to do. I had enough left in my box to make a set of gluten free cheesecakes and a regular box to make a set of non-gluten free. I had colored cupcake liners in red, pink, orange and green in my cabinet too, so I made the red and pink liners the gluten free cheesecakes and the orange and green the non-gluten free cheesecakes so everyone could easily tell which was which.

These cheesecakes have multiple layers of deliciousness, and they’re able to be made gluten free to boot!

What I loved about this recipe was that it had layers to it: a layer of crumbs, a layer of fresh strawberries, a layer of cheesecake, more strawberries and some whipped cream. They were mini, but they were fancy and multi-faceted.

The thing to pay attention to in the recipe is the baking and cooling times. You need to pre-bake the crumbs for a few minutes, and the temperature for baking changes. The time and locations for cooling are specific as well. It’s not hard, but if you’re someone who doesn’t read a recipe all the way through to start, or who just skims and will wing it along the way, I encourage you to take the time to read it through first.

The entire recipe is easy, and the dessert was delicious, well-received by everyone and I would most definitely do it again. I like that it fed so many people. I had two trays of mini cheesecakes, minus just a couple. For my ingredients, I chose to substitute low fat sour cream instead of full fat and 1/3 fat cream cheese instead of full fat, and to use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter for my butter, which we always do. I also increased the recipe slightly, in order to make more mini cheesecakes, and increased my ingredients all accordingly. I also cheated and used a squirty whipped cream instead of making it homemade, given our time constraints.

I hope you’ll give this recipe from Life, Love and Sugar a try, and many thanks to them for sharing it!

*Tip: If you’re looking for gluten free graham cracker crumbs, I found these at a Super Walmart, but you can also make your own by using a blender or food processor to grind whole gluten free graham crackers into crumbs.*