Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

The fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever made [Recipe]

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #DunkinatGiantEagle #CollectiveBias

The fluffiest pancakes I've ever made #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Can I be honest here for a second?

I dread school mornings.

OK. “Dread” is a bit strong. But when left to their own devices, school mornings can be close to dreadful. Thankfully, Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee and this buttermilk pancake recipe can help make these rough mornings go a whole lot more smoothly. It’s the perfect combination because Dunkin’ Donuts helps every day people who help keep America running keep themselves running every day. And the new bottled Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffees provides refreshment with a smooth, flavorful coffee taste. It helps me keep going throughout the day, helping to provide the boost I need to survive the mornings.

And the pancakes? I promise you. You want to try this recipe. It makes the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever cooked. And I’ve cooked a lot of pancakes over the years.

Why do I dislike school mornings?

You see, even though I’m the last person to leave the house, I’m the first person to get up in the morning. Since there’s no rush for me to get to work, I wind up serving as some kind of morning coordinator, making sure our high schoolers are up, dressed, fed, and out the door by 6:30 in the morning. That’s right. The bus picks them up at 6:30 in the morning. It’s ungodly.

The bus gets here way too early in the morning #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Then, while Mom is getting ready, I get our youngest ready for her school day. Because of some special circumstances, she requires a little extra assistance in getting ready. I love getting to have some extra one-on-one time with her in the morning, but it takes some extra energy in the morning. I’ve managed to create a manageable routine for her, but it still takes time.

When it comes down to it, school mornings are probably best described as organized chaos. And that’s on a good day.

There are some things I’ve been able to do to streamline the school morning process. One thing I’ve started doing is making breakfast ahead of time. I know. I have three high school students. They should probably be fixing their own breakfast. But if I left it up to them, they’d probably grab a handful of jellybeans as they head out the door, calling it a filling breakfast. I have a fundamental disagreement with skipping a good breakfast before school. So I make sure they have something. It’s easy to do if you do the heavy lifting ahead of time. That’s why I love this pancake recipe.

Give me some buttermilk pancakes and Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee!

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

The recipe is simple enough. It calls for basic ingredients that you can get at any Giant Eagle or Market District store. And while you’re there, you can grab a few bottles of Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee. The 13.75 ounce bottles are available in four flavors:

  • Original
  • Mocha
  • Espresso
  • French Vanilla

I found these ice cold bottles of goodness in a refrigerated section by the checkout lanes. They were conveniently located so I could get in, grab what I needed, and get out quickly.

Giant Eagle Collage #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Don’t misunderstand me here. The Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee isn’t for anyone else but me. It’s more like my special reward for surviving the mad rush of getting everyone out the door.

OK. I do share them with Christy from time to time. If she’s lucky.

Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffes at Giant Eagle stores #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

She’s a big Mocha fan.

With a bottle of Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee and these fluffy buttermilk pancakes that I’ve made ahead of time, school mornings are a whole lot easier than they used to be.

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes with Syrup #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Here’s what you’ll need

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Cups of Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons of White Vinegar
  • 2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Tablespoons of White Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons of melted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of  Imitation Vanilla Extract
  • Nonstick Cooking Spray

Utensils

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Griddle
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups

Here’s what you’ll do

Step 1
Combine Milk and Vinegar in Medium Mixing Bowl and set aside for at least 5 minutes, allowing the milk to “sour.”

Step 2
Melt Butter in microwave safe dish. Allow to cool.

Step 3
Combine dry ingredients (Flour, Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda) in Large Mixing Bowl.

Step 3
Whisk Eggs, melted Butter, and Vanilla Extract into the “soured” Milk.

Step 4
Pour milk mixture into the Large Mixing Bowl. Whisk until combined. Set mixture aside, allowing batter to rest for 5 minutes.

Step 5
While batter is resting, preheat griddle to 350°.

Step 6
Once the griddle is hot, coat with Nonstick Cooking Spray. Pour ¼ cupfuls of batter onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles pop (approximately 4 minutes). Flip pancakes and cook other side until golden brown.

Golden brown fluffy buttermilk pancakes #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Step 7
Set cooked pancakes aside on a plate.

Step 8
Repeat Steps 6 and 7 until batter is gone.

If you are going to eat these right away, which is tempting, serve these fluffy stacks of goodness with syrup and eat them while they’re hot. If you’re going to use them throughout the week, allow them to cool and store them in the refrigerator in food storage bags. I like to put three in a sandwich bag so it’s easy to grab in the morning.

To Reheat
Place pancakes on microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30 seconds at 80% power. Serve with syrup or your favorite toppings.

The key to a less stressful morning

Making these amazingly fluffy and flavorful pancakes ahead of time is a key to a great morning. I can make sure my kids are well fed before school. And then after everyone is sufficiently on their way, it gives me the opportunity to enjoy my few minutes of peace and quiet with a tasty breakfast and my Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee.

A great breakfast combination #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

What’s your favorite breakfast for a hectic morning?

Easy Orange Chicken and Rice

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ReadySetServe #CollectiveBias

Easy Orange Chicken and Rice Recipe #ReadySetServe [AD]

Always on the go.

Life is pretty hectic around here..

Now that school has started, it’s even more hectic. While Christy’s getting ready for her teaching job, It’s my job to light a fire under our three high schoolers so they’re up, dressed, and out the door in time for the school bus to arrive before the crack of dawn. Then, after they’re on their way to their respective schools, our youngest and I get ready to go to our school.

That’s right. I work at my daughter’s school. While I love working there, I don’t think anyone is as excited as she is about this new development. She’s always excited to see Daddy when she walks down the hallway. It gives me a little lift during the day, too.

Believe me.

Work is fast-paced. I’m working directly with students and every day presents a new set of challenges, surprises, and opportunities. Almost every part of my day is busy. Even lunch.

It doesn’t really slow down after school, either. If I’m not picking up one of our two athletes from their practices, I’m heading to meetings or helping someone with homework. My afternoons and evenings are just as hectic as my mornings.

Lunch time?

I really don’t have very much time to pack myself elaborate lunches. Shoot, I’m lucky to get our daughter’s lunches packed in the morning. And since I only have a half an hour for lunch, I really don’t have much time to prepare anything during my lunch time. It has to be quick and easy. Because this is one of the few “down” moments I have in the day, I want to make the most of it. There’s no room for bland meals. It’s just unacceptable.

Minute Ready to Serve Rice is easily portable #ReadySetServe [AD]

That’s why Minute® Ready to Serve Rice has become a regular part of my school lunches. The cups are portable and easily fit inside my backpack. They’re ready to eat in 60 seconds. And with a wide variety of flavors, a Minute Ready to Serve rice cup can be served with almost any meal at any time of the day. The flavors include:

  • Brown Rice
  • Brown and Wild Rice
  • Multi-Grain Medley
  • Brown Rice & Quinoa
  • Basmati Rice
  • Jasmine Rice
  • White Rice
  • Chicken Rice Mix
  • Fried Rice

Available at groceries nationwide, I found several flavors at my nearby Walmart. They’re the perfect size for a meal, ensuring a healthy portion to help provide the necessary fuel for my day. With a quick stop at the store, I am able to pick up a few simple ingredients for some great lunches during the week.

Minute Ready to Serve Rice store collage #ReadySetServe [AD]

If you can’t come up with something amazing to do with these different flavors, Minute Rice has taken things a step further. They provide some great recipe ideas on their facebook page.

I’m a big fan of a recipe I’ve created myself: Easy Orange Chicken and Rice. Just like the Minute Ready to Serve cups, this meal is easy to carry, easy to make, and full of flavor. The sauce takes just a few minutes to make ahead of time, but it’s so quick even I can fit it into my hectic schedule.

Minute Ready to Serve Rice at Walmart #ReadySetServe

Here’s what I use to make my Easy Orange Chicken and Rice:

1 Minute Ready to Serve Basmati Rice Cup
1/2 Cup Popcorn Chicken
1/4 Cup Orange Chicken Sauce (see below)

Easy Orange Chicken and Rice Ingredients #ReadySetServe

It doesn’t really matter where you get the popcorn chicken. You can buy some hot popcorn chicken from your neighborhood grocery. Or you can buy a bag of frozen popcorn chicken if you’d like. That’s what I usually do. I grab a handful of popcorn chicken from the freezer, toss it in a storage container, and bring it with me to work. It’s almost as easy as grabbing the cup of Minute Ready to Serve Rice!

Once you have all of your ingredients, here’s what you do. Don’t blink while you read this or you might miss something. It’s that quick.

Heat the chicken, according to directions. Set aside and allow it to cool.

Remove lid from Minute Ready to Serve Basmati Rice. Heat according to directions.

Warm up the Orange Sauce.

Combine the chicken, Minute Ready to Serve Rice, and Orange Sauce.

Eat and enjoy! 

Here’s how to make the sauce.

1/3 Cup Orange Marmalade
1/3 Cup Barbecue Sauce
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce

Orange Sauce #ReadySetServe

Combine all three ingredients.

Simmer on the stove for 15-20 minutes.
-OR-
Microwave for 1 minute.

Stir.

Keep in refrigerator in an airtight container until needed for your Easy Orange Chicken and Rice.

I told you it was easy.

This Easy Orange Chicken and Rice lives up to its name. I’m not sure if it could be any less complicated. And thanks to the convenience of Minute Ready to Serve Rice cups, it’s a dish that can be ready in five minutes or less. It’s perfect for my hectic work days. And the tangy sweetness of the sauce makes this an oh-so good lunch!

Ready for lunch #ReadySetServe [AD]

You can easily adapt this dish to fit your preferences. Sometimes I like to add some veggies, like broccoli and carrots to this dish. And diced pineapple is a fruit to have as a side.

That’s just the beginning.

There are so many different ways you can use Minute Ready to Serve Rice that the Easy Orange Chicken is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I can use the cups in my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It makes a great midday snack. It’s great in soups and salads. Shoot, I can even use it in a dessert!

The possibilities are endless. Fortunately, Minute Rice has compiled some great recipe ideas that are quick, easy, and delicious. You can find these ideas on Instagram and via their Twitter profile, They also have a searchable database of recipes available here. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have to try the Pumpkin Pie Rice Pudding next Fall!

Which Minute Ready to Serve Rice recipe are you going to try?

Please share in the comments below.

Grilled Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MyKCMasterpiece #CollectiveBias

Grilled Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

I love to grill. I think it’s a passion that I inherited from my dad. I’m not quite the grill master that he is, but I’m learning more every day. If I could use my grill for every meal every day of the week, I think I’d be a happy man. I’ve even been known to occasionally fire up the grill after a snowstorm. Freezing air shouldn’t be a deterrent from flame-kissed goodness. And now that summer is here, there’s no excuse. The grill must be used early and often. I love experimenting on the grill and discovering new flavors. It’s such an exciting endeavor. KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub helps add even more variety to my grilling efforts.

KC Masterpiece Dry Mix [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

I found KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub in the condiment aisle at my neighborhood Kroger. It’s a versatile mix that opens up my grilling experience to a whole new world of possibilities. It is currently available in two different flavors: Original and Sweet Honey and it’s a great addition to my grilling toolbox.

My Grill [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

Between now and August 31, you can get $1.00 off your purchase of KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub!

KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub is amazingly versatile. Each box comes with two pouches of spice and can yields 16 ounces of sauce. It can be used as a dry rub. It can also be used to make BBQ sauce, marinade, or a dipping sauce. I can customize the flavors by adding my own liquid to the mix. You can use water, your favorite soft drink, coffee, juice, lemonade, or even beer or bourbon to create an amazing flavor that tastes just how you like it.

Mango Lime Coconut BBQ shrimp skewers closeup [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

The summer heat makes me long for fresh seafood. It reminds me of the great times we’ve had as a family on the beach. I wanted to give KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub a try, so it just made sense to create a marinade for a great seafood dish: Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime. It’s a great combination of sweet and spicy with a tropical tanginess.

Putting together this marinade was almost effortless. Here’s what I did.

Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime

Ingredients [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

Ingredients:

  • 1 package KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Flakes
  • 1 cup Mango Nectar
  • 1 or 2 Limes
  • 1 pound Raw Jumbo Shrimp, deveined and with shells removed
  • Bamboo Skewers

Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

What to do:

  1. Combine mango nectar, coconut flakes, and KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix &Dry Rub in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add shrimp to the mix.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. While the shrimp are marinating, soak bamboo skewers for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Slice limes.
  6. After marinating the shrimp for at least 30 minutes, preheat your grill.
  7. Add shrimp and lime to skewers, alternating the shrimp with the limes. Make sure the limes and shrimp are touching. That’ll help encourage flavor transfer from the lime to the shrimp.
  8. Place shrimp and lime skewers on the grill, set at medium heat.
  9. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once.
  10. Remove skewers and put them on a plate when the shrimp has turned a nice pink color. The meat inside should be white and opaque. Don’t overcook your shrimp!It will be rubbery.
  11. Eat!

It’s really that easy! You can adjust the recipe as much as you’d like. Want more coconut? Go for it? Not a fan of coconut? Go ahead and take it out. You could add some lime juice to the mix to ensure some more tanginess. And I’m sure this would be great on chicken, too!

The sky’s really the limit with KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub. This specially blended mix gives you the freedom to let your imagination run wild. I have some other ideas in mind for future grilling adventures. I definitely want to give it a try with some grape juice on a nice cut of beef or pork. The sweet and smoky flavors would be great for a mid-Summer date night at home.

Kroger [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

So head on over to the condiment aisle of your neighborhood Kroger. Grab a couple of boxes of KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub, and get to grilling!

Grilled Lime Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

What flavors do YOU want to combine with KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub? Share your ideas in the comments below.

 

Backyard camping with Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #KingOfFlavor #CollectiveBias

Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners [AD] #KingOfFlavor

Thanks to the youth organization I participated in during my middle school and high school years, I used to go camping. A lot. Not counting our backpacking treks in New Mexico and the week-long summer camps that we ran ourselves, I could generally plan on going on eight or nine different campouts throughout the year. When you add that up over the course of seven-plus years, that’s a lot of camping.

I still love to camp. I still love to make memories. I love being outdoors. There’s nothing like sitting outside on a clear night and getting lost in the stars as they canvas the sky. There’s really nothing like camping with family and friends.

Playing in the backyard tent [AD] #KingOfFlavor

Of course, you don’t really have to go anywhere to camp. If you have a any size of backyard at all, you can pitch a tent without leaving home. That’s what we’ve started doing. And as you can see, our youngest is a big fan of hanging out and playing  in “her” tent.

El Yucateco® is giving entrants the chance to win a one-of-a-kind custom designed surfboard, camping packages and MORE!

El Yucateco Go-Native Sweepstakes

One of my favorite things about camping is the food. There’s just something special about sharing a meal around a campfire. In order to make sure the meal is bursting with flavor, you want to have the right tools on hand. El Yucateco® Hot Sauces are a great way to enhance the flavor of your camp meal.

El Yucateco sauces outside [AD] #KingOfFlavor

Available at retailers nationwide, El Yucateco® Hot Sauces are available in a variety of flavors. El Yucateco® is a fun, accessible brand of sauce that encourages me to get outside and make the most of these great Summer months. Of course, it is a must-have for camping because it is great at bringing out the flavors of other foods. And the bottle is small enough that it’s easily portable. You can bring it to neighborhood block parties, family barbecues, and even your neighborhood restaurant, taking advantage of its great food-enhancing flavor.

I love the variety of flavors of El Yucateco® Hot Sauces. There’s Black Label Reserve, which is made from fire-grilled habaneros and has a unique smoky flavor. There’s also the Red Habanero Hot Sauce, a combination of habanero peppers, tomatoes, and spices. It’s the perfect “all-purpose” sauce. There’s also the XXX Habanero Sauce from the Mayan vault, Chipotle Hot Sauce, and Caribbean Hot Sauce. And, of course, there’s the Green Chile Habanero Hot Sauce, which is their national bestseller.

I found El Yucateco® Hot Sauces in the “Hispanic Foods” section of my neighborhood Walmart.

In store collage El Yucateco [AD] #KingOfFlavor

I have discovered some amazing campfire recipes during my camping excursions. Some of my favorites include Peach Cobbler, Spaghetti Creole, Racin’ Eggs, and Foil Dinners. Foil Dinners are a great meal for any campout. They’re easy to make and each camper makes his or her own foil package and fills it up with favorite veggies and meat. After cooking them in the campfire, they’re ready to eat. While you can use any meat you’d like: shrimp, pork, chicken, ground beef, a family favorite of ours is chicken. Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners, to be precise. They’re so easy to make and each bite is full of flavor thanks to the El Yucateco® Red Habanero Hot Sauce that’s part of this recipe.

How to make Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners

Continue reading Backyard camping with Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners

I had to taste Fit to believe it. And you should, too.

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TasteFitKitchen #CollectiveBias

You have to taste Fit to believe it Title #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

Around this time last year, I shared my newfound love for the fabulous flavors of STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ meals. So it’s been a year and I’m still a big fan of their meals. I love the convenience. I love the flavors. I love the variety. In my mind, there really wasn’t anything else that could be done to improve upon  STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ meals, except maybe add more amazing flavors.

And that’s exactly what they did!

New STOUFFERS FIT KITCHEN varieties #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ has added four new varieties and I couldn’t be more excited!

I’m a busy guy – especially in the Summer. If I’m not at work, I’m usually running one of the boys to their soccer or football practices. Or I’m running the girls to their meetings. Or I’m trying to help manage all the housework that comes with being a family of six. I don’t have time to waste.  STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ is so convenient, it takes the chore of finding an easy, filling lunch off my plate.*

They’ve outdone themselves with the additional flavorful meals. These new options are made from wholesome ingredients with no artificial flavors. They’re also packed with protein, containing at least 25 grams of protein in each meal. The new varieties come in these great flavors:

  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ Teriyaki Chicken
  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ Chicken Poblano Enchilada
  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™Sweet and Smoky BBQ Beef
  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ Roasted Red Pepper Chicken

These new varieties are available at your neighborhood Walmart, so I quickly made my way to a nearby store and visited the frozen foods section.

In Store Collage #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

I have to say, I was more than a little excited to try these great new flavors. But I wasn’t going to take anyone else’s word for it. I wanted to taste Fit to believe it. Again. So I grabbed all of the varieties I could and headed home.

Walmart Bag #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

It’s comforting to know that you’re stocked up for the week and you don’t have to figure out what you’re going to have for lunch every day. These meals are so convenient. They’re chock-full of flavor and they’re ready in just a few minutes. They’re also the perfect fit for my lunch cooler.

Fit Kitchen in lunch cooler #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

You can keep up to date on all of the latest great STOUFFER’S® creations by following their social platforms:

STOUFFERS FIT KITCHEN Teriyaki Chicken #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

Can I just say that the new varieties have lived up to the hype? I love the flavors – especially the Teriyaki Chicken and the Sweet and Smoky BBQ Beef. But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. You really should taste Fit to believe it! So head on over to your local Walmart and give the new varieties of STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ a try!

Which new flavor are YOU looking forward to trying?

 

Well you don't see a restaurant like that every day

Christy and I have eaten at some unique places over the years. Like The Parson’s Table in Jonesborough, Tennesse –  an old church building that was converted into a fancy shmancy restaurant (now it’s a special events facility). There’s St. Joseph’s Brewery in Indianapolis, another old church facility that was converted into a microbrewery not too long ago. We tried the poutine.

It was delicious.  Continue reading Well you don’t see a restaurant like that every day

7 Popcorn Toppings That Will Change Your Movie Night

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeItAMovieNight #CollectiveBias

7 Popcorn Toppings

There is nothing like a family movie night. With everyone’s hectic schedules and all of us running this way and that, it’s hard to get our whole family to sit down in the same room for 10 minutes at the same time. So when we’re able to gather around the TV for a movie night, we want to make sure we’re maximizing our time together and making memories along the way.

Our most recent Family Movie Night? War Room with a nice big bowl of popcorn topped with peanut M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (more on this amazing combination in just a minute) and a nice, cold bottle of Coca-Cola. It’s a perfect Movie Night snack.

Ever since it was released in movie theaters earlier this year, I’ve heard a lot about how good War Room is. “It’s better than any of the other movies the Kendrick Brothers have made,” was a review I heard on a regular basis. I wanted to see it. I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. But the theaters weren’t showing it anymore by the time I could go see it. But now that War Room is a new release at Walmart, I was excited to finally get to see the movie.

WarRoom

There’s a lot of truth in this film. And I think it lived up to the hype. It certainly did not disappoint. It’s something I suggest you include in one of your future movie nights. Because if we’re going to make memories with our families, why not watch something that will help them change the world while we’re at it?

Growing up, we had regular family movie nights. We’d rent a movie from the local video store, grab a bottle of Coca-Cola, and head down into the basement and begin watching a family-friendly movie together. As the movie started, mom would come downstairs with a big bowl of popcorn for us to share.

Oh, that popcorn.

I don’t remember many of the movies we watched together. But I do remember that popcorn. It wasn’t just any old bowl of popcorn. This popcorn was different. It was Taco Popcorn. She would make other toppings, too. Some weren’t that great. But others, like Taco Popcorn, were pretty amazing.

Every time I sit down with a bowl of popcorn, I think of the different toppings my mom used to make for our popcorn. I believe popcorn is the perfect movie night snack. It’s great on its own. But it’s also a great vehicle for some pretty amazing toppings.

In the spirit of my mom’s memorable popcorn toppings, here are some toppings that you really need to try. They’re pretty simple. But you might not ever eat popcorn the same way again.

7 Popcorn Toppings That Will Change Your Movie Night

These toppings are amazingly simple. But they’ll revolutionize your movie night experience. Of course, you’re welcome to adapt and adjust these recipes to your own personal taste as you take your popcorn experience to the next level.

M&M’S® Chocolate Candies Popcorn

MMs Popcorn

I remember when I first tried this topping a few years ago. I wondered where it had been all my life. I was definitely missing out. I love M&M’S® Chocolate Candies – especially the Plain ones. I also love popcorn. Combining the two? Well, that’s just a match made in heaven. The chocolatey goodness of the candy mixed with the buttery saltiness of the warm popcorn? Oh, it’s an experience beyond any mere human description.

This is a classic combination that everyone must try.

Ingredients:

1 Package M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (any variety)
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Pour M&M’S® Chocolate Candies into bag of freshly popped popcorn. You should do this while the popcorn is still warm because it will soften the candies ever so slightly. I promise: it enhances the popcorn eating experience.
3. Eat and enjoy!

Curry Coconut Popcorn

Curry Coconut Popcorn

We’re big fans of Indian food at our house. So this warm, spicy creation is right up our alley. While I’m usually not a fan of coconut, I could eat this popcorn all day, every day.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
2 Tablespoons Coconut Flakes
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder
1 Tablespoon Ginger Powder
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl (approximately 30 seconds).
2. Combine curry, ginger, and coconut in the oil. It will look like a thin paste.
3. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
4. Mix spice paste in the popcorn.
5. Eat and enjoy!

Taco Fiesta Popcorn

Taco Fiesta Popcorn

This is the recipe that started my popcorn topping discovery adventure. It’s amazingly simple. But it’s also amazingly good. I still think of my mom every time I have this popcorn.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Butter
1 ½ Tablespoons of your favorite Taco Seasoning
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt butter in microwave-safe dish.
2. Mix taco seasoning into melted butter.
3. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
4. Pour popcorn and seasoning mixture into a gallon-sized bag.
5. Shake bag until popcorn is evenly coated.
6. Eat and enjoy!

Cinnamon and Sugar Popcorn

Cinnamon and Sugar Popcorn

Cinnamon and sugar on top of your popcorn? Yes, please! Experts say that the perfect ratio is ¼ cup of sugar to 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon. I like it a little sweeter than that, so I add another dash or two of sugar to my mixture.

Ingredients:

¼ Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
3. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar mixture over popcorn. Don’t skimp! Sprinkle liberally so you cover all of the popcorn.
4. Place remaining mixture in an airtight container and store for later use.
5. Eat and enjoy!

Peppermint Paradise Popcorn

Peppermint Paradise Popcorn

My wife introduced this treat to our family a few years ago. While we generally reserve this treat for the winter months, there’s really no reason you can’t have this cool topping any day of the year!

Ingredients:

2 2-oz. cubes Vanilla Almond Bark
2-3 Candy Canes
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Place candy canes in a small plastic bag.
3. Crush candy canes.
4. Melt vanilla almond bark in microwave-safe bowl. Allow to slightly cool.
5. Pour slightly cooled almond bark over freshly-popped popcorn.
6. Mix popcorn and almond bark.
7. Sprinkle candy canes over popcorn.
8. Eat and enjoy!

Garlic Parmesan Popcorn

Garlic Parmesan Popcorn

Another simple recipe. You’re welcome to adjust the garlic to Parmesan recipe according to your family’s taste. To be honest, we usually estimate our garlic and Parmesan, sprinkling each ingredient in until we’re satisfied with the amount.

Ingredients:

½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Garlic Powder
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Combine Parmesan and garlic powder in a bowl.
3. Sprinkle over popcorn. Store remainder in an airtight container.
4. Eat and enjoy!

Buffalo Ranch Popcorn

Buffalo Ranch Popcorn

Do you like Buffalo Wings? Then you’ll love Buffalo Ranch Popcorn!

Ingredients:

⅓ Cup of your favorite Hot Sauce
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon of your favorite Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt butter in microwave-safe bowl. Allow to cool, slightly.
2. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
3. Combine hot sauce and dressing mix in melted butter.
4. Pour popped popcorn into a large mixing bowl.
5. Add sauce mixture to the bowl.
6. Toss popcorn in sauce until evenly coated.
7. Eat and enjoy!

War Room Movie Night #MakeItAMovieNight #ad

I hope these popcorn toppings help add another layer to your family movie night memories. I don’t know about you, but I want to build on the memories I’m sharing with my own kids. We want our family movie nights to be an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, Walmart has made it easy to make it a movie night together.

In store collage

If you purchase four eligible products in one transaction between now and February 2, 2016, you’ll receive a $10 VUDU movie code* via email (*while supplies last. Limit one [1] per person). Simply purchase a 6-pack of Orville Redenbacher popcorn (you can find them here on facebook, twitter, and instagram), M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (facebook, twitter, and instagram, and pinterest, a 6-pack of Coca-Cola (facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest) .5 liters, and select DVDs from Sony Pictures (facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest) – including War Room, a movie that has changed lives around the country. Snap a picture of your receipt and upload it here for your free $10 VUDU movie code. Then you’ll have enough snacks and entertainment for multiple family movie nights! You’ll also be ready to try these amazing popcorn toppings and create some family memories of your own!

#MakeItAMovieNight

Looking for more ideas? Be sure to check out more fun movie night ideas here and be sure to take advantage of the VUDU offer and make it a movie night tonight!

These Cookie Crisp Asteroid Treats are out of this world!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AwakenYourTastebuds #CollectiveBias

Cookie Crisp Asteroid Treats #FoodAwakens

The Star Wars™ franchise evokes some pretty strong emotions for me. One of the first movies I remember watching in the theaters was one of the films in the original trilogy. I remember the drama, the flashing lights, the roar of the giant spaceships, the funky aliens, and the intense battles on other worlds. The larger than life story that unfolded on the big screen captivated me in a way that no other film has ever come close.

I was already a big fan. I loved the Star Wars™ toys. I would play for hours with my neighborhood friends. One of my favorite things to do was to turn the space under our kitchen  table into a huge base for the good guys. It was safe in there. And we could plot the final push against the tyrannical forces of evil.

A perfect base #FoodAwakens

I think it’s safe to say that the kitchen table was the perfect base for the good guys. It could serve as an ice cave, protecting them from the harsh elements of a frozen planet. Or it could easily convert to a giant spaceship, headed to meet the enemy head-on. Or it could also become a base in some forested terrain with giant trees that provide a canopy of protection over the heroes as they hide from their foes.

While growing up, the perfect morning for me would have begun with an hour or two underneath the kitchen table, preparing my base for battle. Then I’d probably listen to the Star Wars™ storybook on my little record player in my room. Then the galactic battles would begin and I’d play with my Star Wars™ toys for the rest of the day. Or maybe my friends and I would go outside and re-enact one of the climactic battles outside. I would only slow down in time to eat some breakfast. For breakfast of choice? Why, Cookie Crisp, of course. Finding a toy inside the cereal box would have been the proverbial icing on the proverbial cake.

Free toy in Cookie Crisp #FoodAwakens

This is an exciting time for our family. Like many dads who grew up on a steady diet of Star Wars™ films, books, costumes, toys, and Saturday morning cartoons, I faithfully did my duty and raised my kids to be fans of the same cinematic universe. So we’re all counting down the days until the release of the next chapter in the saga. Continue reading These Cookie Crisp Asteroid Treats are out of this world!

3 reasons I love the Carmel, Indiana, GetGo

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WelcomeToIndiana #CollectiveBias

GetGo in Carmel Indiana #getGoCarmel #WecomeToIndiana

Need gas? Need some tasty, convenient food? There’s a new place that you must try if you’re anywhere near Carmel, Indiana. I had a chance to check it out not too long ago and I was blown away by my experience. Visiting the new GetGo gas station and convenience store will create a memorable experience.  Here are three reasons I love the new GetGo store in Carmel:

1. The Gas Station and Market

GetGo gas station in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

Open 24 hours, seven days a week, GetGo provides 100% guaranteed high-quality fuel, including diesel. There was plenty of room between the pumps so I could get in and out with no problem. I paid at the pump during my visit, but I could have just as easily paid inside. Filling up was quick and easy. GetGo also offers free air for your tires. Properly  inflated tires are a key to maximum gas mileage, and it’s great that GetGo allows free use of their air pump.

Hoosier Lottery kiosk and over 150 different gift cards at GetGo in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

After filling my gas tank, I took a quick trip inside the store. I was greeted by a Hoosier Lottery self-serve kiosk and a display of over 150 different retail gift cards. And the market area is fully-stocked with your basic grocery items, everything from boxed cereals to fresh fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of snacks available to satisfy any craving. They also have pre-made salads and yogurt parfaits that are perfect to grab and go. And there’s a wide selection of  drinks, of either the piping hot or ice-cold variety.

The Market at GetGo in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

And to make the experience even more convenient, GetGo has a surcharge-free ATM from PNC Bank inside their walls. And they offer free WiFi, too!

Of course, my GetGo experience didn’t end with pumping gas and running in to get quick snack a cold drink. No, this was only the beginning of the GetGo greatness in Carmel.

2. Made-to-Order Drinks at the Smoothie & Espresso Bar

Before I talk about the amazing selection of hand-crafted drinks that are available at GetGo, let’s pause for a moment and discuss the ordering process.

Place your order on the touchscreens at GetGo in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

This is one of the most high-tech experiences I’ve ever had when placing an order. I’ll admit that I might have been just a little bit intimidated by the idea of ordering my meal via touchscreen. I don’t know why. Because it was much easier than I could’ve imagined.

I simply bellied up to the touchscreen kiosk and perused the drink menu. When I found what I wanted, I placed my order. A receipt printed out and I took it over to the cashier. By the time I had paid for my order, my drink was already waiting for me at the pickup window. It was quick, easy, and amazingly convenient.

The GetGo Smoothie & Espresso Bar has a wide variety of hand-crafted, made-to-order drinks available. They are sure to quench any thirst you might have. I’m not much of a coffee guy, but I saw a pretty good selection of coffee-based drinks. They also have hot chocolate and hot chai tea.  I could’ve chosen something hot, but I was in the mood for a smoothie. I had the choice between strawberry, strawberry banana, raspberry, and mango. I tried a strawberry banana smoothie. I was not disappointed in the least. It was the best smoothie I’d had in a long time.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie at GetGo in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

3. The Food

I was impressed with the selection of ready-made sandwiches that you can grab and go when you’re in a hurry. They were hot, affordable, and ready to go. But what really caught my eye, and cause my stomach to growl in approval, was the selection of appetizers and sandwiches that are available

Following the same steps I took to order my fabulous strawberry banana smoothie, I decided to grab a little snack before heading home. They have the standard fare when it comes to appetizers and sides: fries, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks. But GetGo has also taken their appetizer offerings up a notch. They offer some pretty unique appetizers like burrito bites, spicy fried pickles, pierogies, and mac & cheese bites. Oh, and fried chocolate chip cookie dough! If you can’t pick just one, you can create your own sampler platter. How cool is that?

Mac and Cheese Bites at GetGo in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

I went with the mac & cheese bites. They were amazing. I’m going to have to go back again for the burrito bites. And the pierogies. And the cookie dough. And probably some more fried mac & cheese bites.

But the snacks and appetizers are only the beginning.

They offer all kinds of different sandwiches and subs: pretzel bun sandwiches, all-beef burgers, and specialty subs. The subs are available in three different sizes: 3.5-inches, 7-inches, and 14-inches. They’re made-to-order with high-quality ingredients, including deli meats, cheeses, and classic toppings all piled onto freshly baked bread. Their specialty subs include sandwiches called the Big Boss Meatball Sub, the BuffaLOADED, and the Kielbasa Blitz. They also have seasonal subs that are available for a limited time. And that’s the sub that I decided to try:

The Pilgrim

The Pilgrim sandwich at GetGo in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

Holy cow. One of the ladies who works at GetGo told me that it’s like having a turkey dinner on a bun. And she wasn’t kidding. This thing is the most amazing sandwich I’ve had in a long, long time. It’s turkey covered with gravy and white cheddar cheese. You have the option of adding cranberry sauce. This really should not be optional. You have to include the cranberry sauce if you choose to try this delicacy. It brings the whole sandwich together. The real trick, according to the nice lady I met at GetGo, is the bread. It’s just like the bread you’d use to make the stuffing for your turkey on Thanksgiving Day. It’s amazing! It really is like eating a turkey dinner in sandwich form. I’m glad I tried it and I encourage you to do the same. It’s definitely something worth trying.

Snacking at the GetGo in Carmel Indiana #WecomeToIndiana

You have to hurry if you want to give The Pilgrim a whirl. It’s  a seasonal item so it’s only available for a limited time. But I promise. You’ll thank me after trying it.

As you can see, GetGo is so much more than just a gas station. The new store in Carmel, Indiana, is an encounter you’re going to have to experience in person!

Have you been to GetGo in Carmel yet? What was your favorite food or drink?

Effortless Apple Nachos for an effortless meal

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EffortlessMeals #CollectiveBias

Apple Nachos Recipe #EffortlessMeals #ad

I don’t know what it’s like at your house, but Fall is the season of controlled chaos around here. Well, I hope it’s controlled. Our three kids are enrolled at three different schools and their events seem to be stacked on top of each other. I’m working two jobs and Christy’s job requires a lot of prep at home. Homework demands, doctor appointments, and church commitments keep us on our toes. And in our free time, we’re usually taking Aiden to and from something football related. Yes, our lives are hectic. Sometimes it even feels like Christy and I are expected to be in three different places at the same time. In the midst of our family’s hustle and bustle, we still try to make sharing a meal together a top priority. That’s why I’m glad Walmart has effortless meals that are quick and easy. They’re the perfect meal for busy families like ours. Continue reading Effortless Apple Nachos for an effortless meal