Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bars

By Holly Sosa

Summer is in full swing here in the High Desert, even if it’s not officially for a couple more weeks according to the calendar. We’re already blasting the air conditioner and cooling off in our swimming pools thanks to the desert heat. And dessert? Well, it’s never a question now that temperatures are now consistently above 90F. It’s ice cream and popsicles because what better way to cool down than with a creamy treat? My simple recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Bars is a kid favorite that even adults enjoy from time to time (by time to time I mean just as much as the kiddos). The strawberry goodness is a throwback to an ice cream truck favorite only when you make it at home, you’ll never have to worry about whether or not any are left for you (because when you make it yourself, you get first dibs!).

To start, I simply add some Golden OREO Cookies to my food processor and get them finely ground up into a sand-like texture.

I add in some melted butter and give it a few more pulses to thoroughly combine it all together. I press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of my baking dish to create a crust layer.

Then I toss it into the freezer to set for about an hour.

While the cookie crust is setting, I start making the crumb topping by adding more Golden OREO cookies, melted butter to my food processor only this time I keep the crumbs larger.

I set aside a few tablespoons of the cookie crumbs before adding strawberry gelatin powder to my food processor. I give it a couple gentle pulses to just combine the rest of the cookies with the strawberry mix. The crumb toppings also both get placed in the freezer to set.

Once my crust and toppings are set, it’s time to assemble. I start by grabbing some softened vanilla ice cream and scoop it over the top of the cookie crust, spreading it evenly throughout the pan.

I pop it back into the freezer for about twenty minutes to harden.

And then I grab some softened strawberry sorbet and repeat, placing it back in the freezer to harden.

Then I pull it out and add one more layer of vanilla.

And I sprinkle both the cookie and strawberry crumbles over the whole pan to coat.

I place it back into the freezer for about four hours (overnight is best) before lifting the whole thing out and cutting the cake into squares.

My family enjoys these right away, but they’re also easily stored by wrapping each square in parchment and storing in a plastic bag kept in the freezer.

These tasty treats are the perfect summer dessert. They taste even better than what we all remember the ice cream man having; and the best part is that we don’t have to wait for him to make his neighborhood rounds before enjoying one!

For additional recipes like this be sure to follow Our Holly Days on Pinterest where I keep all my favorites on hand.

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Stupid Easy Chicken Tacos

By Holly Sosa

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Conagra Brands. All opinions are mine alone. #31DaysWithRotel #CollectiveBias

Around these parts, my kiddos all-time favorite meal is never a question: chicken tacos. My recipe for Stupid Easy Chicken Tacos is always a crowd pleaser with our friends, but my kiddos especially love the juicy flavorful chicken. They load up their shells with plenty of chicken, cheese, and black olives. They all too often devour their servings before I can finish making mine. Taco nights are a frequent request and we enjoy them almost weekly (Taco Tuesday anyone?) because they’re that delicious, but also because they’re insanely easy to make. Fellow moms, save this recipe because it’s life changing.

Toss three chicken breasts into a slow cooker and sprinkle a packet of taco seasoning over the top.

Add a can of RO*TEL for effortless bold flavor.

And a cup of chicken broth.

Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours if using thawed chicken. If using frozen, cook on high for 5-7 hours.

After the chicken has cooked in it’s flavor bath, pull it out and shred it up. You can use two forks to do this. The easier way is to put the chicken into a stand mixer for 20-30 seconds. It shreds up easily and so much faster than using two forks. Both methods taste the same, so however you shred it up really makes no difference other than time.

After the chicken is shredded, pop it all back into the juices left in the slow cooker and give it a good stir. It can be served immediately right from the pot.

The chicken is versatile and can be used on nachos, tostadas, in empanadas, and my favorite way is to use leftovers in a pot of chili. Combined with a can of RO*TEL, the possibilities are endless! But by far, my family’s favorite way is in these classic taco shells with all the fixin’s. As a busy mom, I love this recipe for how simple and quick it is for me to pull together. I can pick up everything during my usual trip to Walmart and toss it all in the slow cooker for dinner perfection in just a few hours; I don’t even have to thaw the chicken first!

For more fiesta inspiration and bold RO*TEL flavor, be sure to visit the social hub where bloggers like me are participating in the 31 Days to Fiesta with our favorite recipes.

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Stationery Necessities from a Paper Addict

By Holly Sosa

This post is sponsored by Sizemore Designs.

As a self-proclaimed stationery addict and lover of paper, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of various stationery necessities. Yes, necessities. At least in my head it’s all necessary for life. Pens, pencils, all the markers, notebooks upon notebooks, and much more. I love using paper to organize my life, create, and even play. As a connoisseur of paper, I’ve developed my own list of items I believe every person should own. My top three most used items are notebooks, clipboards, and pads of paper. Today I’m sharing a little more about each of these stationery necessities and how I use them in hopes I can inspire others to utilize this, “old fashioned,” method to increase their productivity.

A notebook

A notebook is pretty self-explanatory, right? To a paper addict, a blank notebook is full of endless possibilities. If ever I’m without my trusty planner, I love to utilize notebooks as bullet journals.

A clipboard

Clipboards are so useful! I used to have a giant wall of clipboards above my office desk to utilize for important papers, inspiration, art, and anything my little heart desired.

A pad of paper

This is my most essential item. I use pads of paper daily. As a perpetual list maker, I’m constantly looking around for a pad of paper to write on. Grocery lists, recipes, party planning, to do lists, and everything else. Paper pads are a great place to brain dump and get thoughts organized.

Each of these stationery essentials in my collection are available for purchase at Sizemore Designs vis Etsy.

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3 Must Watch Shows on Netflix This Month

By Holly Sosa

This post is sponsored by Netflix.

I’m a Netflix junkie and love discovering new-to-me shows while browsing the current titles. Favorite way to watch: in a hot bath with a bath bomb, a glass of wine, and my laptop set up (far away and not plugged in) to play my faves. These are my three recommendations for must watch shows on Netflix this month.

The Tudors

I’ve been sucked into the vortex of this show over the past month, binge watching whenever I get some free time. I’m completely captivated by period dramas and this one is especially well done. I’m currently in season three where King Henry is considering marriage to Anne of Cleves. It’s been such a ride thus far!

The People v. OJ Simpson

I was just a child when the infamous trail began, but I remember bits and pieces. This series drew me in immediately and I was up way past my bedtime for several nights wanting more, ha! Once I finished the series, I drowned myself in a pool of interviews that happened during the trial on YouTube.

The Crown

I’m an admitted addict of period dramas and this one was no exception. This is a Netflix Original and was done masterfully. I loved watching the Queen’s early years and feeling like I had an insiders look at life as royalty.

I love that Netflix has something for everyone (including me and my dorky period dramas) and even lets me have my own unique profile so that my husband or kiddos shows don’t intermingle with mine. It’s one place that’s just mine and all mine, ha! Unlike my food, or my personal space, ha!

What are you currently binge watching on Netflix? What’s your favorite type of show to stream? Comment below so we can chat all things Netflix!

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Lemon Pepper Chicken with Garlic & Butter Rice

By Holly Sosa

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

When I cook, I love to incorporate fresh flavors and tastes from what’s in season. Here in California, lemons are ripe for the picking and full of the zesty flavor they’re known for. One of my favorite spring and summer dinners to make is my Lemon Pepper Chicken. This spring, I’ve added new Uncle Ben’s® Garlic & Butter Rice to the mix. The flavors from the chicken and the rice blend together beautifully for a quick and easy dinner (all you need to do is add a veggie and you’re done!) that embraces all the flavors!

I begin with thinly sliced chicken breasts (you can buy them already sliced thin from your local butcher or do it yourself at home).

I coat the chicken with some olive oil and kosher salt.

Then I add plenty of lemon pepper seasoning before tossing it all together to coat the chicken.

Next, I lay the chicken in a baking pan and cover with some lemons that I sliced up earlier.

I grab one more lemon, cut it in half, and squeeze the juice over the chicken.

I bake it in a 375F oven for about thirty to forty five minutes until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F.

While the chicken is baking, I grab a large pot (I have a big ol’ family) to start the rice. I combine the Uncle Ben’s® Garlic & Butter rice (we use a whole bag, but you can easily portion it out according to your family size) with water and some butter in the pan and bring it all to a boil.

Once the rice is boiling, I give it a quick stir, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to low. I let it simmer for about ten minutes before removing it from the heat and letting the rest of the water absorb (usually about an additional five minutes).

Timed just right, my chicken and rice are done right around the same time which makes me feel like I really have my life together, ha! It’s the small things.

To plate, I add a scoop of rice and top it with a fresh piece of chicken topped with a lemon slice and a side of veggies (broccoli or green beans both would go well with this dish). Isn’t it beautiful?

My entire family of seven scarfs down this meal with no complaints (mom win!). They’re rice lovers and when it’s Flavor Infusions™, the only 10 minute rice with natural flavors steamed into each grain, I never seem to be able to make enough. Each grain has been infused with herbs and spices so there’s no need to add a flavor packet, which makes prepping dinner after a long day all the more simple. Uncle Ben’s® Flavor Infusions™ contain no preservatives or artificial flavors and comes in a convenient re-sealable pouch to keep it fresh. There are five new flavors, exclusive to Walmart, including Parmesan & Butter, Chicken & Herb, and Spanish Style, but my Lemon Pepper Chicken practically begs to be paired with the Garlic & Butter flavor. Lemon + garlic = gloriousness!

For additional recipes inspired by new Uncle Ben’s® Flavor Infusions™, visit the Uncle Ben’s social hub or follow the Uncle Ben’s Facebook page for inspiration from bloggers like me.

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Dear Daughter

By Holly Sosa

This post was sponsored by Halestorm as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

Becoming a mom turned me into a sap. A glass case of emotion, if you will (let’s be friends if you caught that movie reference). My little mama heart just can’t handle all the feels of certain movies, books, or even commercials. And music is a whole ‘nother beast, friends. I can barely make it through this latest song, Dear Daughter, by GRAMMY® Award-winning hard rock band Halestorm.

My daughter, Evelyn is a fierce personality. But even with her spunky attitude, I know that the road ahead in life will be filled with obstacles and triumphs. Dear Daughter is an anthem for all girls, a reminder that anything is possible and that mama’s arms aren’t ever too far. This song is a powerful reminder of the love between mother and daughter that the world can’t touch.

Dear Daughter, never lose yourself. Remember that you’re like nobody else.

Evelyn is a spunky little girl. At just four, she’s been a transforming force in our family. I’ve always called her our rainbow connection since she’s a little piece of everyone in our blended family and connects us all to one another. She knows what she wants in life and isn’t afraid to demand it, ha! Parenting a spirited child with her personality is challenging, but I know it will serve her well later in life when things get difficult. She’s one of a kind and I’m proud to be her mother.

These are words that every girl should have a chance to hear: there will be love, there will be pain, there will be hope, there will be fear. And through it all year after year, stand or fall I will be right here for you.

As Evelyn’s mother, I’ve promised to be there through all the highs and lows of her life. I can’t promise her a pain free life, but I can let her know that no matter what happens, I’ll be right next to her to pick her back up.

For me, sometimes it takes a song to say all the things I’m thinking and feeling, but can’t translate into words myself. This Dear Daughter song by Halestorm does exactly that since Lizzy Hale was inspired by the support she received from her parents when she and younger brother Arejay decided to start a rock band as kids and their parents’ encouragement to pursue their dreams.

Share this song with your own daughter and enter to win a prize package from Halestorm using the form below. Entries close May 16th. I-C will randomly select winners from all program entries and will facilitate fulfillment of the winning prizes (10).
Halestorm Giveaway

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Mexican Stuffed Peppers

By Holly Sosa

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Conagra Brands. All opinions are mine alone. #31DaysWithRotel #CollectiveBias

For many of us, the month of May conjures up images of a ramen-headed Justin Timberlake and while I can appreciate a good throwback to one of my all-time favorite boy bands, RO*TEL has a different idea in store for May. Inspired by their 31 Days to Fiesta, I created these Mexican Stuffed Peppers filled with flavorful ground beef and RO*TEL Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles.

I started by trimming off the tops of several green peppers and pulling out the inside seeds and veins before setting them aside.

Then I grabbed a large mixing bowl and added some ground beef and a packet of taco seasoning.

Next I added a can of RO*TEL Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles.

After the RO*TEL, I added corn, black beans, rice, and plenty of cheddar cheese along with some cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper.

I gave it all a good mix to incorporate all those yummy bold flavors and then set it aside to make some flavored tomato water for my pan.

For the tomato water I simply added tomato sauce, water, cumin, chili powder, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper all to a bowl and whisked them together.

I poured my tomato water into my baking dish.

And then spooned the meat mixture into my peppers one by one until my pan was filled.

I covered the peppers with tinfoil and baked them in a 375F oven for about one hour before removing them and sprinkling them with some more cheese. Then I popped them back into the oven for a few extra minutes to get the cheese nice and melty. Once I pulled them out again, the peppers were perfect!

Loaded with tons of bold flavor and spices, these Mexican Stuffed Peppers are such a crowd pleaser. The peppers soak up all of that flavorful tomato water while the ground beef takes on the bold flavor from the seasonings and RO*TEL; such a simple way to add tons of zesty flavor to any dish, really! I love adding RO*TEL to eggs, meatloaf, and casseroles to banish bland and bring some bold flavor to my food. It’s a staple in my pantry since it fits so seamlessly into my family’s lifestyle.

This May, trade your ramen hair for the bold flavor of RO*TEL by adding it to some of your families favorites to transform an old recipe into a Fiesta for their mouths!

Yum
Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

    Peppers
  • 6 bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1 can RO*TEL Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
  • 1 can tomato sauce, divided
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 cup corn (frozen or canned)
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic;, minced
  • 1/8 tsp salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Tomato Water
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 4 ounces of tomato sauce (from divided above)

Instructions

    Peppers
  1. Trim off tops of peppers and scrape out seeds and veins. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine ground beef, corn, rice, salsa, half of the tomato sauce, cumin, chili powder, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper; stir until combined.
  3. Gently fold in black beans. Set aside.
  4. Tomato Water
  5. Mix together all ingredients and pour into bottom of a baking dish.
  6. Pepper Assembly
  7. Arrange empty bell peppers in baking dish with tomato water.
  8. Spoon meat mixture into each bell pepper to the rim.
  9. Cover dish with foil and bake at 375F for one hour or until the meat is cooked through.
  10. Once meat is cooked through, remove foil and sprinkle with cheese.
  11. Place peppers back in oven for one to two more minutes until cheese is melted and remove.
  12. To serve, spoon tomato water onto plate, add a pepper to the middle, and enjoy!
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For more fiesta inspiration and bold recipes from bloggers like me, be sure to visit the RO*TEL social hub.

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Purple Trail Planner Review

By Holly Sosa

I received a planner to facilitate this post. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas are my own. Thank you to Purple Trail for partnering with me and thank you readers for supporting the brands that support this blog and my family.

It’s planner season! For us planner addicts, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! New releases, fresh paper, an entire notebook of possibility right at our fingertips. This season, I was sent a planner from Purple Trail to play around with and share my thoughts. They offer several options of cover type, calendar formats, additional tabs, and so much more. This is truly the planner for personalization and I’m excited to share my little Purple Trail Planner review with all of you fellow planner addicts.

The first customization they offer is for the cover: hard spiral cover, soft spiral cover or three ring binder. I chose a hard spiral cover only because there were more design options, but now that I’ve had a chance to play with mine, I wish I had tried their binder format instead. The spiral is plenty sturdy and superior to any other planner I’ve tried, but because the pages are so thick (creating a more bulky planner altogether), I worry that with regular use it could wear and tear quickly over a binder.

The first few inside pages did not disappoint. A holiday list and calendars for the current and upcoming years.

Next I got to choose my weekly format (they also offer monthly and daily formats): horizontal weekly, vertical weekly, or vertical hourly. I went with vertical hourly and love the format. However, the weekends are squished together in one column. I prefer having an individual column for each, but if I’m being honest, I haven’t needed the extra space after all.

Also offered are colorful or grey color schemes. I went with color because duh! And I went ahead with an 18 month versus a 12 month just because I wanted to jump right in and test out the planner (I got to choose the starting month!). The tabs are the sturdiest I’ve ever felt in a planner and I think they’d have no trouble standing up to 18 months of use. I love the space at the beginning of each month for tracking birthdays, events, and writing reminders/goals.

The additions were my favorite part about creating this planner. I added in a folder and sticker pack. And I got to add in additional pages/dividers based on my needs like a nutrition and notes section (also offered: password list, bill tracker, address book, puzzles/games, fitness tracker, travel itinerary, and several more).

The planners are also offered in two sizes: 6 by 8 inches or 8.5 by 11 inches. I actually prefer a size in the middle, but went with the smaller size so my planner would be easily tucked into my purse or travel bag. Since I do travel with my planner, next time I’d order the binder format or keep it at a 12 month format since the 18 month spiral is quite bulky.

Purple Trail planners offer a wide variety that’s helpful for the needs of most anyone. Since they’re easily customized, it’s a cinch to build a planner that works for anyone. The price point gets a little higher the more personalizations are added and as it’s seen here, mine was over $70. If you’re a dedicated paper planner user, it’s worth it. But if you’re just venturing out into the planner world, you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable paying that. Overall, I’d recommend this planner to fellow planner addicts. It’s been super fun and I’ve enjoyed playing with the format.

Visit Purple Trail to create your own personalized planner or to utilize their design services for stationery, invitations, and more.

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Creating a Summer Schedule for Kids

By Holly Sosa

I received a set of Chalkola markers to facilitate this post. All thoughts, opinions, and ideas are my own.

With five kids at home during the summer, I have to keep things running as smoothly as I can around these parts. As rural desert dwellers, we have limited choices of places to visit and we have to keep our outside play to a minimum (thanks to the desert heat). A lover of organization and schedules, I tap into those strengths to help ensure my children aren’t just entertained during summer break, but also engaged, active, and studious. Creating a summer schedule for kids plays a big part in keeping everyone occupied without taking away too much of the lazy summer days they look forward to during the school year. Over the years, I’ve developed a schedule and system that keep all five of my kiddos happy and healthy during the long desert summer days.

It all starts with a chalkboard. I bought a medium sized board. I flipped it over and used some super glue to attach several strong magnet to the back. This allows me to display our summer schedule on the fridge for the kids to have easy reference to.

I mapped out our daily schedule and a list of must-do activities on a piece of paper before arranging them into time periods. This is where I took into account my family’s personal needs. For instance, all five kiddos can’t shower at one time period or we’ll run out of hot water. My solution was to give the girls time in the morning and the boys time in the evening. I also create a list of activities for us to complete each year, a sort of summer bucket list, and the kids love to do them when dad is home, so I arranged our activity of the day to be done after he returns home from work each day.

Using my favorite chalk markers from Chalkola (seriously, I’m a pen/marker addict and I’ve tried them ALL), I copied over the schedule I had created to my chalk board. I love how smooth they write and how vibrant the colors come through. We love rainbows around here (read: mama loves rainbows) and I love being able to write our schedules (yes, I create a school year one too!) in the colorful hues. These markers from Chalkola can also be used on metal, mason jars, glass, mugs, or even as dry erase markers. They’re super fun; especially for moms and teachers since they’re so versatile. Here is a (affiliate) link to the exact set I use.

I may have five kiddos home during the summer, but I believe that creating these summer schedules for kids is helpful for families with any number of children. The key is making it flexible enough to accommodate summer spontaneity, but also adding some structure to the kiddos so you can still get through your own to do list each day.

Order your own set of Chalkola markers on Amazon. Also be sure to follow @ourhollydays on Instagram where I’ll be sharing all of our summer adventures and activities here in the High Desert.

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A Boy Named Dennis

By Holly Sosa

I was compensated by World Vision for my time in writing this post. All opinions are my own.

The World Vision Global 6K for Water was just a few days ago and we loved participating through our own family walk on May 6th to participate in this cause close to our hearts.

If your family was unable to participate in the World Vision Global 6K for Water this year, child sponsorship is a great alternative to allow you and your family to be actively involved in bringing solutions and stability to underdeveloped and poverty stricken communities.

Through World Vision my family has grown in many ways. We sponsor a boy named Dennis through the organization. Dennis lives in Bolivia and shares a birthday with my late son, Liam. Liam (and his brother, Collin) both share Dennis’ Bolivian heritage which makes us feel closer to Dennis. We exchange letters, mail him packages, and share our lives with him. Dennis has given my children perspective and compassion for others who don’t share the benefits of living in a developed country. World Vision has given my family the opportunity to love others whom we wouldn’t normally have the access to.

Sponsoring Dennis is a personal and long-term way for us to get involved with World Vision and share our love with a child in need. Our sponsorship allows us to have a one-on-one relationship with Dennis (and his family and community) while pooling the gifts of all sponsors who support children in the same community where World Vision can provide long-term resources for lasting change.

Since poverty is complex and rarely solved by one intervention, World Vision helps with each community’s specific needs such as clean water, schools, teacher training, agricultural training, immunizations, and more. These solutions help the community to become self-sufficient, which is the ultimate goal.

Child sponsorship is a special way to get involved and help children and communities in need that also creates a personal relationship, allowing you to directly see the impact your sponsorship is making.

Child sponsorship is a simple process that allows you to find a child you want to help through a preferred country, age, or even birthday. After you find a child, you’ll receive a letter in 6-12 weeks from that child that will be the start of a one on one relationship. Your monthly gift helps your sponsored child and their entire community which translates into long term resources for everyone! The local staff ensures your donations go the extra mile. Since the children cannot receive direct cash benefits, staff create sustainable plans to help keep your child’s community out of poverty, even after World Vision has moved on to help friends in other areas. You can stay connected with your child through hand written letters and even through the World Vision website where you can track the community’s progress, get regular updates, and even send additional gifts (like livestock!).

Every $1 donated equals $1.30 in impact thanks to grants and product donations. What better way to ensure your money is maximized to help these children and their communities?!

You can find and sponsor a child, or get more information here at the Sponsor a Child portion of the World Vision website.

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