Big Muddy Monster Homebrew Competition + Brew Fest 2019

We love craft beer! We went to the Big Muddy Homebrew Competition in Murphysboro, IL, and it was so fun sampling craft homebrews from all over Illinois and Missouri. This competition leads up to the Big Muddy Monster Brew Fest, in Murphysboro, IL on Saturday, October 5, 2019 (noon - 4pm). Excited to frequent the homebrew tent at the event next weekend!

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I’m so happy we had the opportunity to stop by and check out the 100+ Homebrew recipes that were submitted.

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10th Annual Big Muddy Monster Brew Fest 2019
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Check out the poster I created for the homebrew competition, below. The winner will have their beer recipe brewed at a larger scale, and is a huge honor! **NOTE - Contest has ended.

10th Annual Big Muddy Monster Brew Fest 2019

Tips for Actually Relaxing on Vacation

This post has been sponsored by Canada Dry®. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Let’s be honest, traveling can be pretty stressful. But, if you go into a vacation or adventure with a well-thought-out plan, a realistic outlook, and something refreshing to drink, it’s so much easier to sit back and actually relax and enjoy your time away!

During our recent vacation to the Florida Keys, we took a sunny day to relax and picnic near the ocean. We bought along a DELICIOUS new flavor from Canada Dry called Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Orangeade, which we found at Kroger as we were getting ready to make the 24-hour drive to the Keys. This destination is worth every single mile! 

This new Canada Dry flavor is perfect to enjoy in Florida, the sunshine state known for its oranges; this drink delivers a flavor that is light and refreshing, with a hint of ginger and 1% real orange juice! 

I loved lying at the beach and simply staring out into the ocean. The tropical breezes make the palm trees wave ever so slightly with no cares in the world. We always pack a cooler full of ice and refreshments when we are adventuring around on our vacations. Staying hydrated is key in being able to stay focused, relaxed, and feeling fresh.

I see the stress that looms over those traveling and taking so much time, effort, and money on what they thought was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, only to find that the crowds, traffic, and overpriced everything are just too much!

I am often asked how I stay so positive while traveling, and I am so happy to be able to share tips on making sure you get the most out of your vacation throughout this post. It is a dream of mine to one day create a blog dedicated fully to travel and lifestyle, so stay tuned! Who knows what dreams might just come true! 

PLAN A RELAXING SCHEDULE

The day we shot this post, we headed to a cute little park that we had all to ourselves for the morning! Talk about relaxing…I left feeling incredibly refreshed and ready to handle the day…the month…and even the year ahead. A bit of fresh air and sunshine can really do wonders for helping one relax.

Making sure everyone has something cold and refreshing to drink really makes a huge difference. I know that when I am parched, I just can't think of anything but getting a sip of something cold. How about you?

Here, we treated a couple of our closest family members to some tasty refreshments as they enjoyed a relaxing sunset by the water. They said it was some of the tastiest Ginger Ale they had ever had and were so happy we shared! We filled glasses with ice, poured the Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Orangeade into the glasses, then garnished them with slices of mini oranges. What a tropical treat! Plus, the house we stayed at while in Florida had tons of gorgeous hibiscus bushes, and other pretty tropical flowers which really complemented the delicious taste of the Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Orangeade.

We love taking vacations with family. We all get a chance to bond and relax, which all of us need very badly since we all work SO hard throughout the year.

STAY COMFORTABLE / PACK ACCORDINGLY 

If your goal is to recharge, there is no use in completely doing way more than you would normally be capable of. Sure, it’s fun to challenge yourself and make the most of every day while on vacation but this also means giving your mind and body a little bit more time to rest than usual. You may not even realize that walking a city’s downtown area could add 5+ extra miles to your daily adventures!

Bring comfortable clothes and shoes, and be prepared for a variety of environments. This will help you stay at the top of your game. You may even find that in cities where walking is a huge part of peoples’ daily commute, you may find shoe stores and boutiques that carry incredibly comfortable and stylish items! Never pack shoes or clothing that are the least bit uncomfortable because you likely won’t even wear them while traveling.

Another part of staying comfortable is being prepared with enough refreshments and snacks. You never know when you will get that perfect chance to catch an amazing meal so rather than being stressed by packing improperly, get things organized ahead of time so you're all happy and you can take as much time to relax as possible.

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH

Plan a relaxing schedule. It allows you a bit of wiggle room if places are not as expected. This way, if the itinerary isn’t planned out minute by minute, your whole day isn’t ruined if a detour arises!

Sometimes, the best and most relaxing days come from spur of the moment stops we have taken—whether it is just to get out and stretch our legs or is something a local told us about. 

I also love using the maps app on my phone to look up reviews, photos, and honest opinions of not only restaurants and bars but also state parks, venues, and even places off the beaten path.  

Also, if you search locations via Instagram’s geo tags, you can find out about a place days, months, or even years in advance! And, you get a look at what the locals are doing as well as those who are visiting.

UNPLUG AND LEAVE WORK BEHIND

 As we all know, unplugging from technology and work can be extremely peaceful and reduce stress. This is something I always have trouble doing since I work in social media. It’s part of my job to keep my phone or laptop by my side, whether it’s to check emails from clients or shoot photos for projects. And since I don’t have a traditional work schedule, work literally never ends. This means that I have to put forth extra effort to leave the phone in the other room so that I can enjoy the precious time we have in any given place.

Of course, technology while traveling can also help reduce stress. Set aside some time each morning or evening. If you do not already have a plan for the day ahead, jot down a list of ideas and look them up to see if it’s worth the time and effort.

KEEP AN OPEN MIND + A REALISTIC OUTLOOK

I always recommend keeping an open mind and realizing that travel can be stressful, so going with the flow in a new location or situation is sometimes the best way to fully enjoy your time.

Never pressure yourself to relax. If the situation is bothering you, do a little change of scenery, realize that you’re on vacation, and have a little fun. After all, there is likely some reason people vacation there, so find those places and check them out even if they are not your normal plan!

TRY A NEW ADVENTURE

Try a new adventure—that can breathe new life into your spirit and even if you wore yourself out a bit trying something new, the memories and thrill of a new adventure will truly reinvigorate or reenergize you for years to come.

Remember, pack yourself some snacks and your favorite flavors of Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Orangeade, Ginger Ale, and Diet Ginger Ale—something for everyone!

RECHARGE AND RELAX 

Get a good night’s sleep. I always bring my own pillow from home if space allows in my luggage. I find that after traveling and staying in so many places, the comfort of your own pillow is worth more than any luxury accommodations.

While I have never attended a spa to get a massage while on vacation, most tourist destinations boast award-winning, state of the art spas and salons that offer unique experiences.

What sorts of relaxing travel tips do you have? Do you find vacation stressful or relaxing? If you chose the latter, I do hope some of these tips have really inspired you to start enjoying every single moment of that relaxing vacation you planned! Happy and safe travels, friends!

What to Pair with Asti Spumante + Mini Fruit Tart Recipe

This post was sponsored by the Italian Trade Agency as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. Message for readers 21 and older.

Throughout life, I have been so inspired by my Italian heritage. I enjoy wine, food, and art, all of which are very close to my heart. My grandfather’s parents moved to the United States from Italy around 1910, and since I was so close to his side of my family, I always felt such a connection to that culture. Living La Dolce Vita, meaning living the sweet life, is a great phrase for the way I feel about what you will find in this post. Learn how to pair this sweet sparkling Italian wine called Asti Spumante with something sweet and easy to make.

 In this post, I wanted to share a bright, refreshing glass of Asti Spumante with you (from one of 20 wine regions in Italy), and provide an easy yet elegant recipe for mini fruit tarts, which pair very well with this sparkling Italian wine.

Asti Spumante is a sparkling wine that is produced from Moscato Bianco grapes in the southeastern part of the Piedmont region of Italy, concentrated around the cities of Asti and Alessandria, but also near Cuneo. 

Though Piedmont accounts for only 7% of Italy’s wine production, it is celebrated for producing wines of extremely high quality. Piedmont stands proud as the region with the most DOC/DOCG zones (58) and the largest percentage of officially classified wines (86%). Piedmont is Italy’s northwesternmost region, sharing a border with Switzerland and France, and surrounded by the Alps to the north and west and the last peaks of the Apennine Mountains to the south.

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(Image Source: Extraordinary Italian Wine

Below, you will notice a regional map of Italy, and the Piedmont region is shown in red.

The region is surrounded on three sides by the Alps. The name Piedmont comes from Latin meaning, ‘at the foot of the mountains,’ which makes for a very rocky soil and terrain in some areas. It’s an agricultural region, where more than half its 170,000 acres of vineyards are registered with DOC designations.

Italy produces the largest volume of wine in the world. The country may have more than 3,000 varieties of grapes, of which 590 are officially recorded with hundreds left to be catalogued. The wines are often referred to as “passionate wines,” extremely expressive wines that convey many emotions.

I often go for white wines when possible, and enjoy Chardonnay a LOT. This variety of wine has notes of light citrus fruit flavors (apple and pear mostly,) and a few hints of vanilla. Foods that pair well with Chardonnay include semi-soft cheeses such as goat cheese, herb-crusted halibut or scallops, chicken breast, and more.

My grandfather was one of my favorite people ever, and it’s really an honor to be able to celebrate him and the positive impact he had on me. My last name is Accettura, which is actually a city in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata. It has always been my dream to one day visit, and hopefully I will.

Since my grandfather loved cooking for me and treating us to delicious meals at restaurants in the Chicago area and on our vacations to Florida, I learned to love good food. He would be so proud of me for following my dreams of working for myself as a food and lifestyle photographer.

Many sites I researched concluded that fresh fruit are a great pairing for Asti Spumante. A few sites even mentioned fruit tarts, which I knew would be gorgeous to pair with this wine.

HOW TO MAKE MINI FRUIT TARTS:

Ingredients:

 1-2 packages of ready to use flaky shells (freezer section near the puff pastry and pie crusts)

Fresh fruit topping:

1 kiwi, cut into small pieces

1 package of blueberries

3 strawberries, cut into slices then into slices, like a pizza

Fresh whipped cream:

1 pint heavy whipping cream

¼ cup (or more) granulated sugar

2 tsp Vanilla bean paste or regular vanilla

1/3 C. powdered sugar, sifted

Optional – frosting bag and larger star-shaped piping tip

Instructions:

1.) Make whipped cream. In a stand mixer, whip together cream, granulated and powdered sugars, and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form, put into fridge to cool. After 15-20 minutes or less, transfer into prepared frosting bag.

2.) Lay all shells out onto work surface, and use your frosting bag to full shells. I used a swirling motion to get a nice shape. See below.

3.) Cut up fruits, and add one fruit at a time to all cups. First put one blueberry on each cup. Then, put one piece of kiwi on each, then one piece of strawberry. Serve with Asti Spumante and enjoy!

Experiment with Italian wines in creative, unexpected settings: Italian whites at the beach, Italian Rosato with BBQ, Italian whites with sushi, Nero d’Avola with Korean BBQ, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with burgers, Valpolicella with ribs, Lambrusco with Mac n’ Cheese, Pairing Italian wines with cheese and meats.

I am SO honored to have had this chance to work with the Italian Wine Trade Agency on this incredible project. What an incredible learning experience. Cheers to amazing opportunities. 

As I mentioned before, my grandfather was 50% Italian; his parents relocated to the United States from Italy in the early 1900s. Since I was so close to my grandparents on my dad’s side, I was raised learning all about the Italian foods that my grandfather grew up enjoying, then cooking for me. I also learned later in life that my dad inherited several vintage bottles of Italian wines that my grandpa, Vito, had been keeping in the basement for many years. We still keep that wine as a memento of him, which makes this post even more special to me.

Asti Spumante’s characteristics are a persistent froth, a color from pale yellow to pale gold, the perlage is fine and persistent; its fragrance is soft and characteristic and, finally, its taste is aromatic, distinctive, sweet and balanced in structure. That’s why Asti is a wine with a strong and aristocratic personality. The bubbles add SO much to the experience.

Fresh Strawberries

Since strawberries are looking so great in stores right now, they were perfect to feature in this recipe, and to pair their sweet taste with the sparkling wine.

Made from the Moscato Bianco grape, Asti Spumante is sweet and low in alcohol. In fact, it is the perfect wine of the sweet occasions and to toast after a meal. It accompanies desserts and is very suitable with fruit, as it has hints of acacia flowers, wisteria, peach and apricot.

Use any variety of fruits you would like to make these adorable mini fruit tarts. I would recommend incorporating at least 3-4 colors of different fruits for the best effect.

Thank you so much for joining me to learn more about Italian wine and what pairs best with Asti Spumante. Have you ever tried this wine before?

‘Make Every Cup Count’ with Laughing Man® Coffee from Target

This post is sponsored by Laughing Man® Coffee but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.This post is sponsored by Laughing Man® Coffee but the content and opinions expressed here are my own. #LaughingManCoffee #MakeEveryCupCount #Target

Sometimes I notice, that at the tail end of any season (the end of summer, for example), I sometimes get into a little slump. As a blogger, we are always having to think a month or more in advance for projects, and while it’s always fun to think about the new season ahead, I do sometimes need a little boost of caffeine in the mornings to get me through it and to stay motivated! A cute coffee cup never hurts, either! ‘Make Every Cup Count,’ friends – the motivating power of coffee is really amazing.

I recently tried delicious offerings from Laughing Man® Coffee, which I found at my local Target, and also on Target.com. I really, truly enjoyed this coffee! Bobby tends to prefer his coffee more black than I do, and wow, that fresh coffee aroma was absolutely intoxicating! We drink coffee almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day – who’s with me?! The flavors we loved most include the Columbia Huila and Hugh’s Blend. Have you ever tried this brand before?

Laughing Man® Coffee was actually co-founded by Hugh Jackman after an inspiring visit to Ethiopia, where he met a young farmer named Dukale. Inspired by Dukale’s optimism and determination, Hugh was committed to helping improve the lives of coffee farmers and share their Fair Trade Certified™ coffees with the world.

Since its inception, Laughing Man® Coffee has always strived to ‘Make Every Cup Count’ by donating a portion of proceeds from each purchase to the Laughing Man® Foundation, which supports coffee farming communities and programs that clear the way to health, growth and success for coffee farmers and their families. In addition to being available in recyclable K-Cup® pods, consumers can now purchase the brand in ground bagged coffee.

It’s important to have something to keep you fresh and alert, especially when a lot of my projects seem to be due all at the same time. That encourages me to try to burn the candle at both ends, and while I’d love to take a midafternoon (or admittedly a mid-morning nap), I know that’s just not always possible. If I have a warm cup of java nearby, then I can actually get through those rough work days.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE COFFEE FEATURED HERE:

Colombia Huila – A dark roast coffee of uncommon complexity, Colombia Huila is produced from beans of great character, resulting in an intense, deep-roasted flavor with a black cherry sweetness, and a dark chocolate finish.

Hugh’s Blend™ – With contrasting, yet complementary notes of tart green apple and toasted graham cracker, this smooth and balanced blend represents the cheerful embodiment of the Laughing Man® coffee mission and a reminder that true fellowship knows no borders.

Both available in recyclable K-Cup® pods and bagged from Target.

I also like to enjoy a cup of coffee on the weekends – after all, a blogger’s job is never really done after Friday at 5pm, it’s a constant and very fulfilling job and I do love it!

What sorts of ways do you try to prep for the seasons ahead? I am finishing up lots of late summer and back to school projects, but soon enough, Fall and Winter projects will be in the works.

Whether you’re a blogger or not, I am sure we all feel the motivation to look ahead. It’s sometimes hard to create Fall projects when it’s still warm out, but I love having a delicious cup of coffee nearby, so I can get that extra boost of motivation!

Learn more about these amazing coffees here! Thanks for stopping by, friends!

DIY Bottle Koozies + Vegetarian Taco Bowl Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Constellation Brands. All opinions are mine alone. The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older. #CelebratorySips #CoronaSummer #CollectiveBias

Summer is here and what a better way to celebrate all the hard work you have done this year with a Beer + Craft Night with friends? I’ve been really wanting to make some customized / embellished drink koozies for some time, and when I learned about this amazing opportunity with Corona®, I jumped at the opportunity to celebrate all that Corona embodies - offering a passport to carefree enjoyment and refreshing, delicious refreshments! With a refreshing, smooth taste balanced between heavier European imports and lighter domestic beer, Corona Extra is an even-keeled cerveza with fruity-honey aromas and a touch of malt. The flavor is crisp, clean and well balanced between hops and malt.

 

What a perfect way to celebrate summer with a snazzy new way to keep your drinks cold and to liven up the party...even if it is a craft night that turns into a party :)

 

These bottle and can koozies really make a statement. They will also help you identify which beer belongs to each person. For only $3-4 you can make your very own Summer Drink Koozie - keep reading to get the instructions and design ideas!

KOOZIE MATERIALS:

Foam Koozies (found in the foam aisle at a craft store)

Ribbons and trim of various colors

Low temp glue gun

Glue sticks (I used fabric glue sticks)

Cardboard for use as your work surface, or a heat-safe work surface (the glue can get messy!)

KOOZIE INSTRUCTIONS:

 

  1. Plug in your glue gun and get it ready to use. Cut ribbons and trims to fit around your koozies, leaving a little extra just in case.

  2. Once glue is hot enough, on a heat-safe work surface, add a bit of hot glue to the end of one ribbon, and begin to glue it around the top of the koozie. For the more patterned koozies, I used 4 strips of woven ribbon around. See steps below.

Notice the raw edges of the ribbons, above. We will cover those in the next image, with one more strip of ribbon, glued up the back.

3. For the tassel koozie (below), I glued on my tassel trim first, then covered that with a more tie dyed looking ribbon for a more finished look. See steps below.

4. Feel free to embellish further with stick on jewels and more ribbons - let your creativity run wild! Note - I tried using sticky-backed jewels, but I needed to glue them on, or they would fall off after a short use. Still super cute either way!

FOR THE VEGETARIAN TACO SALADS:

Vegetarian Taco Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

2 Sweet potatoes (chopped)

2-3 TBSP Olive Oil

2-4 TBSP Mexican Seasoning

1-2 tsp salt

(Other toppings include: lettuce, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, and more!)

Note - this can be made vegan if you use all vegan toppings, like vegan sour cream.

Taco Salad Instructions:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees.

  2. Cut sweet potatoes into cubes, and chop onions into small pieces. Place into a mixing bowl, and toss with 1-2 TBSP Olive Oil.

  3. Bake potatoes and onions for 15-20 minutes, then add sliced peppers on top, and bake another 10 minutes or until the ingredients are baked soft enough to enjoy.

  4. To create your bowls, add a bed of lettuce, then top with sweet potatoes, and any other toppings you like. Enjoy with a Corona Extra®!

Have an amazing summer, friends!

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DIY Drink Koozie Tutorial

Recipe For The Perfect Mother's Day #SpreadTheLove #ButterChardonnay 

Thank you JaM Cellars for sponsoring this post. Looking for Butter Chardonnay near you? Check out their easy-to-use Store Locator! Just pop in your zip code and the Butter will be waiting! This wine melts in your mouth, is creamy-licious, and everything is certainly Better with Butter! 

I am so inspired by the warmer weather that is finally here, gracing us with sunshine and more reasons to celebrate the ones we love. One sip of Butter Chardonnay will transport you to a more relaxing and uplifted place! This Chardonnay is easy drinking wine that has light, crisp flavors that will surely please moms everywhere!

I have lots of mother figures in my life and I am extremely grateful for each and every one of them! My mom, my step mom, Bobby's mom, and my friend who just became a mom for the first time. I don't have any grandmother figures in my life anymore, but they are always in my heart! There are a few ways to treat any mother figure to something special for Mother's Day Weekend, so here are a few ideas to treat them well.

sugar cookie bars

I also thought that making sugar cookie bars would be perfect, because they travel well and are such a versatile treat for Mom. 

It's fun how wine can also accompany some great times. It's seriously so fun to sip a glass of wine with my mom and sister and do some baking. We do tend to love doing projects together, so this whole post was just such an incredible inspiration for me!

I will also be heading to Louisville, KY this weekend to see my sister graduate college AND to celebrate Mother's Day with a brunch to end the weekend. I will definitely be bringing one of these bottles of wine to that celebration as well. I am SO excited!!! 

Butter Chardonnay melts in your mouth just like smooth, rich butter!

This wine is made from California grown grapes, is cold fermented, and is aged in oak. 

 If you sip this delicious Butter Chardonnay, you might even taste hints of stone fruit or baked lemon with a vanilla finish.

This wine is best served chilled and has such a nice, complex flavor without being too sweet. This is the perfect choice for summer and beyond!

Keep reading to get the full recipe for these amazing Sugar Cookie Bars with Edible Flowers!

Jump to the bottom of this post to grab the recipe for these sugar cookie bars. A couple of other fun ideas for making Mother's Day great would be some thoughtful gift ideas. Check out my ideas, below!

Cute Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Why not give mom a gift basket with all of these items inside?! That would make her smile for sure. 

SUGAR COOKIE BAR WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS RECIPE

{Adapted from a recipe, found here}

Ingredients:

  • Dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • dash of salt
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp milk if needed
  • 8-10 edible flower heads, I used violas, but marigolds, violets, and others would work too.

TIPS ON FINDING EDIBLE FLOWERS:

To find the best edible flowers, look no further than your local hardware store or garden center. I found Violas on sale for about $2 per container. Look for the package with the most blooms on it. Cut the flowers off to garnish your sugar cookie bars or any other treat for Mom, even cocktails. The great thing about buying flowers this way, is that you can then plant them in a sunny spot in your yard and they will keep growing throughout the year, just as love for Mom grows all the time.

Alternately, I have seen a cute package of edible flowers at our local Co-Op, packaged similarly to the refrigerated herbs.

Instructions:

  1. Cookie bars: Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat till well blended. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. Add to the wet ingredients and stir till well combined.
  2. Press into a 17" x 12" rimmed baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until barely light brown. Cool completely, then get ready to frost. See frosting instructions in next step.
  3. To Make Frosting: Beat softened cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar, extracts, salt, and food coloring. Beat till smooth and creamy, adding milk as needed. 

4. Carefully cut edges of sugar cookie bars with a large, sharp knife so the edges are straightened up, as shown below. 

5. To evenly cut sugar cookie bars, cut down the middle both ways, then cut each of those sections in half again. To ensure a cleaner cut, always wipe off the excess cake and icing between each slice. After slicing, add edible flowers and serve! These stay good a few days left out at room temp or in the fridge. Enjoy!

Aren't these just so beautiful?! 

I hope you enjoy theButter Chardonnay and these sugar cookie bars as much as my mom and I will! Have a wonderful Mother's Day, friends!

Make sure to check out more from JaM Cellars Butter Chardonnay here!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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How To Make Cold Brew Coffee For Spring with Dunkin’ Donuts

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company. The opinions and text are all mine.

Spring is here, and I am so excited for warmer weather. I will admit, we were lucky to get such a mild winter, but getting ready for warmer weather means that I have more projects on the to do list and that calls for coffee! I am someone who has to stay organized, so I have been working on my spring to do list for over a month now!

Do you start planning for spring ahead of time, or do you wait until the weather is for sure perfect to get started? Either way, Dunkin’ Donuts® Cold Brew is here to help! Get that craft coffee experience right in your own home with very minimal effort – it’s SO easy!

Check out the mPerk Offer from Meijer, here!

Dunkin' Donuts Cold Brew coffee packs provide a more balanced & blended coffee forward taste as a result of its craft brewing method.

By steeping the coffee packets in water for 8-12 hours, every little nuances of rich, delicious flavor has a chance to come forth and satisfy your taste buds! Drink it black, or enjoy a simple coffee recipe, which I have provided in this post.

Just imagine all of the amazing iced coffee recipes you can create from Dunkin’s Cold Brew.

INSTRUCTIONS + RECIPE:

Step 1: Put 2 Coffee Filter packs (1 pouch) into a pitcher

Step 2: Fill the pitcher with 4 cups of cold water

Step 3: Steep it in the fridge overnight, or for 8–12 hours

Step 4: When it’s done steeping, remove the filters and add 3 more cups of cold water. Customize and enjoy! I added 1-2 Tbsp of sweetened vanilla syrup, also located in Meijer’s coffee aisle, plus about ¼ cup or more of your favorite creamer, all poured over ice. Feel free to add more sweetener if you like, but this tasted amazing!

Watch my video, below, to see how simple it is!

I have been really cherishing coffee a lot more lately than I used to. Maybe it’s because I am inspired by the creative boost it gives me, and perhaps that means a LOT to me :)

In the last few years, I have been training my taste buds to love coffee and all its wonderful, energizing benefits! The added boost is actually what has drawn me to enjoying coffee in the first place, but I also love the fact that I have had some of the best and most meaningful conversations over a cup of coffee. While it’s still a bit chilly out right now, I have been checking the forecast and there are glimpses of warm days ahead in less than two weeks! Here in southern Illinois, we are already starting to see green blades of grass popping out of the leaves, tulip buds and other flowers in their beginning stages, and I am SO excited to get the house and garden ready for spring.

Last year, we really began to invest more time and money into our garden. It was almost a bit sad to prep everything for winter, but each year, I know that I will learn more, and also understand what vegetables, herbs, plants, and flowers will grow on our property. What works well in shade, what works well in full sun, what works best in early spring, and what works best in the crazy heat and humidity of our southern Illinois summers. It’s all such a fun learning experience, and I documented our garden as mush as possible so that this year, I would be able to approach the garden in more of an educated manner.

I am also going to help my mom get her garden ready for spring, too, so I plan on bringing a box of the Dunkin’ Cold Brew with me, brewing the coffee in the fridge overnight, then experimenting with several different coffee recipes, which will make our gardening day even more fun and productive. My mom has ALWAYS been a coffee drinker, as long as I can remember, so it’s going to be super fun to bond over something I made for her!

I began with premixed coffee drinks, then started ordering coffee at coffee shops. Well, those options are great when you are in a rush, but I found that the process of making and brewing coffee is one of my favorite parts of the experience, so I make it at home a lot more now.

My mom is actually the person who taught me about gardening. She would save the plants at the garden center that were on their last leg, and then a few weeks later, when I saw her garden again, the plants looked like they were happier than ever. This year should be a fun time to bond over gardening, and it’s going to be great. My mom is going to LOVE this cold brew coffee too – she said she has never tried it before and is eager to learn more.

Did you know that freshly brewed Dunkin’ Donuts Cold Brew coffee packs allow a customizable, craft experience that highlights the smooth and rich notes that taste amazing? I’d definitely hold the taste of Dunkin’s Original Cold Brew up there with those made by very talented baristas. Now I’m a barista in my own home, and I just love it!

 

Located in the coffee aisle at Meijer, the Dunkin’ Donuts Cold Brew packaging is orange, and a bit larger, and is found near the other cold brew coffee section. I do love shopping at Meijer because of the huge selection of grocery items PLUS those awesome mPerks offers save me a ton.

I’ve always been so drawn to the cold brew process. It’s more of a craft process that a lot of coffee shops are preparing these days. Well, I understand why! The cold brew process draws out the flavor, and also allows the coffee to be less bitter and offer smoother taste. It’s almost like making a pitcher of sun tea, with a longer steeping process. Although the process is longer, the actual work involved is hardly anything. Open the packets, place in your pitcher with water, and wait overnight – that’s about it!

If you try a traditionally brewed cup of iced coffee next to a cup of iced cold brew, it’s amazing. I found that the cold brew was so smooth and wonderful, and by adding just a little bit of sweetened vanilla syrup and coffee creamer, I had a high end coffee drink that I created myself! WINNING!!

It’s so wonderful. A traditionally brewed pot of coffee sometimes starts to taste less appealing after an hour or so. Well, since this Dunkin’ Cold Brew actually steeps for around 8-12 hours, the delicious nuances of flavor get more time to develop. This coffee was not bitter, but more of a rich, smooth, fulfilling flavor! I never drink black coffee by itself, but WOW, this cold brew style of coffee is actually a good way to not have to really add so many ingredients because the flavor is so rich and balanced.  (unless you want to, of course!!)

 I’ve always been intrigued by cold brew coffee, and this was my first time trying it out myself. I loved how easy it was to brew an entire pitcher of coffee all at once, providing endless joy and drink recipe options.

Let me know what you plan to check off on your spring to do list in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you’re up to these days.

© The J.M. Smucker Company © 2018. DD IP Holder LLC (as to Dunkin’ Donuts and all other trademarks, logos and trade dress of DD IP Holder LLC) used under license.

Peeps Milkshakes

Easter is this Sunday, April 1, and I thought it would be adorable to create a beautiful set of treats for the occasion! Hope you enjoy! 

cute jars with sprinkles on rim

First, find some cute jars and dip the rims into melted white chocolate. Holding the glass over the sink or a large bowl (to catch the sprinkles), apply sprinkles in festive colors to the chocolate. Cover as much as possible.

Peeps Milkshake

RECIPE:

2 cups all natural vanilla ice cream (I prefer Breyer's extra creamy vanilla)

2 cups frozen blueberries

2 cups milk

1 tbsp honey

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour into decorated glasses and add your garnish - carefully poke a skewer stick through the bunny Peeps, and use a jelly bean to make the end look more finshed off.
  3. Enjoy!
Peeps Bunny Milkshake

3-2-1 Frozen Margarita Recipe

We have been making so much vegetarian food lately, and the majority of it has been Mexican food. So since we had a few limes in the fridge, we invited our friend Chris over to create his favorite cocktail for us. He styled it really well and it tasted awesome. I loved the lighter flavor, and this recipe is amazing because it will give you a substitution for traditional margarita mix that is so high in acid and calories that I avoid it all together! 

Here is a delicious and traditional 3-2-1 Margarita, which I hope you enjoy! When you read through the ingredients, you will see that it's 3 parts tequila to 2 parts triple sec, to 1 part lime juice. Because this is a higher gravity margarita than if you were using a store bought mixer, it's best blended with ice to tone it down a bit (but that's totally up to you!).

3-2-1 Margarita Recipe

Ingredients (serves 1, or serves a pitcher if scaled up)

  • 3 parts tequila (6 ounces for example)
  • 2 parts orange liqueur triple sec, Grand Marnier or Cointreau (4 ounces for example)
  • 1 part fresh lime juice (2 ounces for example)
  • Simple syrup or agave nectar to taste (4 Tablespoons)
  • Kosher salt for rims of glasses
  • Fresh lime slices (keep as circular slice) for garnish
  • Optional: zest of lime, and cilantro for final garnish
  • ice: add 3-4 cups, optional

Instructions

  • In your blender, add ice, tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and agave nectar. Blend thoroughly until all ice pieces are fully blended. 

  • Use spent lime to apply lime juice around rim of glass. Dip into bowl full of salt to apply to rim.

  • Fill glasses with 3-2-1 Margarita. Use a spoon to help serve from blender.

  • Garnish with lime slice and optional cilantro and enjoy! 

3-2-1 Margarita Recipe

Sparkling Peach Lemonade Recipe

Trying to squeeze the last few drops out of Summer, and I wanted to share a recipe we shot a couple of months ago. My little garden was so great this year, and I was thrilled to have fresh greenery to add to recipes and photos. I have seen a few delicious peaches around still, s grab some fruit and let's get started! 

Lemonade
recipe

(Found via Southern Lady Magazine, here)

6 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 (33-ounce) bottle sparkling water*

2 cups fresh lemon juice

2 sprigs fresh mint

Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

Garden Fresh Mint
intructions

1.) In a medium saucepan, bring peaches, sugar, and 1 cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool slightly. Transfer peach mixture to the container of a blender; purée until smooth. I also added a tiny bit of coconut milk to get that pretty, pastel color!

2.) In a large pitcher, stir together peach purée, sparkling water, lemon juice, and mint. Top with ice. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Notes:

We used San Pellegrino.
Kitchen Tip: Frozen peach slices may be substituted for ice cubes.

Making A Drink

Vegan Strawberry, Peach, Spinach Smoothie Recipe

I found a great way to easily incorporate spinach into smoothies! It add a teeny tiny bit of extra texture to the smoothie, but does not alter the taste at all! 

Have you ever used frozen spinach before? While I would of course prefer to use fresh spinach every time, if you're simply using it in your smoothies, then frozen is a great option. I believe the frozen spinach in the bags is already steamed, and is so incredibly convenient to add a small bit into your smoothies! I love adding all of those awesome nutrients from the spinach!

Vegan Smoothie Recipe

I've been trying to reduce my meat and dairy intake lately, and up until now, my smoothie recipes would always include yogurt. It's of course 100% fine to add yogurt, this smoothie is amazing on its own, and does not even need it! 

recipe

1 Cup Frozen Strawberries

1 Cup Frozen Peaches

1/2 Cup Frozen Pineapples

1/2 Cup Frozen Spinach

1 1/2 Cups Nut Milk (I like combo of Macadamia Milk, Coconut Milk, and Hemp Milk)

1/2 C Pineapple Coconut Juice or Similar

1-2 Tbsp Agave Nectar

1/2 Cup Water

Vegan Smoothie Recipe
instructions

1.) In a blender that can handle frozen ingredients well, add your frozen ingredients, and then your liquid ingredients. 

2.) Blend on Smoothie Mode or Frozen Drink Mode for two rounds, Taste to make sure you're happy with the flavor.

3.) Serve in a cute glass, adorn with flowers and herbs from your garden, and a cute wooden spoon. Enjoy!

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