Happy Birthday to Me!

What an exceptional birthday! I turned 34 last weekend, and we celebrated at a cute pavilion on Devil’s Kitchen Lake. The weather was just perfect, and the full moon that started on Friday the 13th and carried into my birthday things even more special. Wow, I am so thankful for all the wonderful people in our lives!

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg

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.

w2.png

(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?

Easy Recipes for Big Game Day Snacking with popchips

This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com on behalf of popchips.

The Big Game is all about what food you put on the party spread so I have teamed up with popchips to share some cute and easy decor ideas, as well as hassle free food ideas for homegating and viewing parties THIS SUNDAY!!! Who are YOU rooting for?

Try all three flavors of the popchips ridges BOLD & CRUNCHY - buffalo ranch, tangy bbq (my fave), and also cheddar and sour cream. I thought it would be amazing to offer guests three different dips to try with their popchips PLUS a fun dessert treat that only took three ingredients. Keep reading to get all of the details!

The best part about all of the treats and snacks I featured in this post, is that all of it was super fun and easy to create myself, with minimal ingredients, and none of this had to be baked! I was even able to make the three dips ahead of time as well as the desserts. Get the recipes below!

GAME DAY DIP RECIPES

Buffalo Dip - 1 cup sour cream + 1/3 cup (or more) buffalo sauce

The Best Dill Dip Ever - 1 cup sour cream + 2 tsp salt + 2-3 Tbsp dried dill

Mediterranean Dip - 1 cup Greek yogurt + 2-3 tsp turmeric + 1 tsp salt + 2-3 tsp Greek seasoning mix

CUTE + EASY FOOTBALL DESSERT IDEA:

Ingredients:

1 squeeze tube of green frosting (pre-made or homemade)

football decorations - I found these at a party store in the baking section

peanut butter cups - I unwrapped these ones myself!

Set out an assortment of popchips ridges chips, all three dips, carrots, celery, mini tomatoes, and any of your other favorite foods. Enjoy your game day celebration!!!

Go Organic This Super Bowl With Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold + A Cast Iron Skillet Nachos Recipe

This post is sponsored by Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold but the content and opinions expressed here are my own. Learn how to make this year’s Super Bowl LIII the most delicious one yet.

#LiveULTRA #PureGold #Organic #SuperBowl

Pair Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Organic Light Lager with these exceptional Organic Vegetarian Skillet Nachos for a game day snack that will be a huge hit. Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold is made from organic grains inspired by nature and it’s free from artificial colors and flavors. When I learned Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold was not only organic and delicious, but also lower in carbs and calories than a glass of wine, I was sold! You can bet this Super Bowl I’m pairing my favorite organic recipes with Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold.

ORGANIC VEGETARIAN CAST IRON SKILLET NACHOS RECIPE (Serves 4)

I was inspired to create this recipe because of the organic ingredients in the beer, plus my love for always eating organic every chance possible. I always aim to use as many organic, vegetarian ingredients in my recipes! Thiese skillet nachos could be made vegan by simply excluding or subbing out the cheese and sour cream - everything else is vegan!

Some of Tastemade’s other organic recipes include these homemade Nachos, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and Chicken Wings.

Ingredients (Use organic when possible):

1 bag of blue corn tortilla chips or any chips you like

1 small can green chilis

1 cup diced, roasted sweet potatoes

1 cup finely chopped red and yellow peppers

thinly sliced jalapeños

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 - 1 cup sour cream (transfer into plastic squeeze bottle for easy use and application)

1/2 - 1 cup lettuce (not shown)

1/2 cup black olives (not shown)

Cast Iron Skillet - at least 12” across

Instructions (See video below for more details):

1.) Spray skillet with non-stick spray. Place a layer of tortilla chips to cover the bottom of the skillet.

2.) Add your prepared toppings such as: diced chilis, shallots, onions, roasted sweet potato, seasonings, peppers, black beans and anything else that can be baked in the oven. Also, top with jalapeños and 1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.

3.) Bake nachos at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese has melted. ***BE CAREFUL when removing the cast iron skillet from the oven because the handle is deceptively BOILING HOT. Please always use an oven mitt when handling the nachos and the skillet.

4.) Top with sour cream, cilantro, tomatoes, and any other ingredients you like. Enjoy with Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Organic Light Lager this Super Bowl.

These skillet nachos are also fun because they are more of an interactive dish, where people can mingle around the meal and grab small bites as they wish. Keep beer on ice or in the fridge for easy pairing!

About Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Organic Light Lager:

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE MICHELOB ULTRA’S SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL ON YOUTUBE ON 1/30!

With the USDA Organic certification on each and every package, that means they provide organic beer that proves quality, organic ingredients make for better taste. Let’s go organic this Super Bowl!

Michelob believe in thriving on a steady diet of friends, fitness, and occasionally laughing a little too hard. We believe you can work out and still go out, that you can stay fit and stay fun. We believe that getting more out of life requires putting more into life. 

Live Fit. Live Fun. Live ULTRA

Watch the Michelob ULTRA Super Bowl Commercial here, or watch below!

As one of the largest beer brands in the U.S, Michelob ULTRA represents not only a premium light and refreshing beer, but a brand that embodies wellness and active lifestyles. The brand is uniquely positioned at the intersection of health and happiness. We believe in a life of balance where you don’t have to sacrifice beer in order to maintain your active lifestyle.

Michelob ULTRA wants you to be proud of who you are, your hard work, and what makes you truly unique. We want to celebrate together and be a part of that journey with you – whether it is about living fit or living fun. Michelob ULTRA plays a part in living a full life. One that’s filled with friends, fitness and of course—fun. 

Michelob ULTRA’s new packaging is light and refreshing boasting the USDA Organic seal, just like the light, golden hue of the lager itself. With a light taste like that, it’s very easily drinking, and pairs well with food AND football!
Live life to its fullest with other foodie and football fans alike this Sunday, 2/3/2019!

WATCH THESE THREE VIDEOS FOR MORE RECIPE IDEAS!!!

The Best Meals Bring Us Together ~ Easy Party Recipes with Idahoan® Steakhouse® Soups

One of my favorite things about cooler weather is that it’s great excuse to get everyone together for a warm, potato soup! Gather your friends and family, and try new Idahoan® Steakhouse® Soups. They will warm you right up. This could also be an amazing Game Day party menu too! Find out how I made a low cost meal for a crowd, and learn a little bit about how Idahoan® soups and other great foods bring us all together!

Thank you Idahoan® Steakhouse® Soups for sponsoring this post. Enjoy the flavorful, slow-cooked taste of restaurant-quality soup at home, in minutes.

I have actually been a fan of the Idahoan® brand for over 15 years! I remember always having it in the cabinet at home, and once I began to make more meals for myself and for my friends around age 18, and as I moved out of my parents’ houses, and began doing grocery shopping of my own, I literally ALWAYS made sure to have several packets of the Idahoan® instant mashed potatoes. I still always have a packet or two on hand, and love always having something yummy pairing it with dinner, usually chicken breasts, green beans, and mashed potatoes. That sounds SO good right now!!

These packets of potatoes literally shaped the way I prepared meals from the very beginning. That’s why I was really honored to be able to create a meal for friends, inspired by Idahoan®, one of the very foods I used to feed some of my first groups of friends once I moved to my own place. To see how their foods are still bringing the most important people in my life together is really heart warming. Making meals for friends is always fun, and it’s a really great way to get people together when we are all so busy.

Idahoan Steakhouse® Soups are available in a variety of delicious flavors, including: Loaded Potato, Creamy Potato, Cheddar Broccoli, and Cheddar Potato.

HOW TO MAKE SOUP FOR A LARGE CROWD OR PARTY

(SERVES 8-10+)

For our group, I mixed three different packets of Idahoan® Steakhouse® Soups together, then added 12 Cups of water (because each packet requires 4 cups of water to make, and that’s it!).

Ingredients:

3 packages of Idahoan® Steakhouse® Soups in any flavor (Learn more about available flavors below)

12 Cups water

2-3 tsp Seasoning Mix of your choice - I used a Greek Seasoning, which added black pepper taste

Optional - 1-2 cups fresh broccoli flowerettes (cut into small, bite-sized pieces

What Toppings To Offer:

(Best displayed in cute bowls with spoons so guests can serve themselves)

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Soup Crackers

Bacon Bits

Sour Cream

Hot Sauce

This was a VERY cost effective way to feed a large group!

We served up soup and SO many other tasty sides. The cookies were a huge hit! Get the recipe below.

FOR THE DECOR:

I set the table with a slivery grey piece of fabric, then placed a black and white buffalo plaid fabric table runner over the top. I thought this really tied the warm, cozy, inviting feel of the soup into the decor as well. Next, I found the cutest white plastic spoons at the party store, plus some periwinkle colored bowls. While I could have also used glass or ceramic bowls, these worked great! Another fun idea would have been to use coffee mugs for people to eat soup from, and it would be even more casual.

I did however provide cloth napkins for guests, and a few other cute paper and bamboo plates for all those yummy side dishes.

The Best Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

The Best Oatmeal Cookie Recipe - Makes 20 Cookies

These cookies were a huge hit, and finished off the meal nicely. After eating our meal, we sat around the table, reminiscing about fun times we all had together over the past year, and eating oatmeal cookies.

This recipe was found on this inspiring blog, The Comfort of Cooking, here.

Note - I would recommend doubling the below recipe for a crowd.

OLD FASHIONED CHEWY OATMEAL COOKIES

YIELD: Makes 20 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

DIRECTIONS:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2.) In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars until fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla until well blended. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir into butter mixture. Gently stir in oats until well blended.

3.) Shape dough into rounded golfball-sized balls (about 2 Tbsp. each). Place on prepared baking sheet (I fit 9 per sheet). Flatten with the bottom of a measuring cup dipped in sugar.

4.) Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Spinach Artichoke Dip + Pita Bread Slices (Serves 6-8)

I found this recipe on the Spend With Pennies Blog, here.

PREP TIME 10 minutes

COOK TIME 25 minutes

TOTAL TIME 35 minutes

This is my favorite Spinach Artichoke dip recipe!! It’s easy to make and always a huge hit!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz cream cheese , softened

  • 2/3 cup sour cream

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise

  • 2 cloves garlic minced

  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese divided

  • 1/2 cup fresh shredded parmesan cheese

  • 1/2 cup gruyere cheese

  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach defrosted and squeezed dry

  • 14 oz marinated artichoke hearts chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut pitas into 6 pieces each, like pizza slices.

2.) In a bowl combine cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and garlic with a hand mixer until fluffy.

3.) Stir in parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, gruyere cheese, spinach, and artichokes.

4.) Place into a 9x9 casserole dish (or deep dish pie plate) and top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.

5.) Bake 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is browned. Carefully remove from oven and serve directly from baking dish when safe to serve.

6.) Meanwhile, bake pita triangles for 5-7 minutes, remove from oven before they are too crunchy, and are still a bit soft but warm.

Enjoy!

Soup Party

What soup flavors will you feature at your next gathering? You could also make a batch of each soup and see what your guests lie best! Lay out all the toppings in matching bowls, and offer guests spoons, napkins, plates, bread, and more! Enjoy!

Potato Soup Party
Soup Party

Have a wonderful day!

Valentine's Day Party Supplies

So many cute Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s Day) party supplies and cute recipe ideas, to make your time with loved ones extra special.

We had a huge snow storm today and I am loving the gorgeous shimmering white snow covering everything. Seems like the perfect weekend to stay in and get a few things done around here.

If you’re anything like me, pink and gold are a match made in Heaven! That seems to be a trend for Valentine’s Day 2019 as well, so stock up on items in both the holiday sections, but also in party and home decor!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, where I share items from my brand partners and make a small commission for my time and efforts. Thank you for supporting the retailers who make exquisite merchandise!

Adorable Banners for Valentine’s Day

Adorable Banners for Valentine’s Day

I really hope you’ve enjoyed this inspiring roundup of Valentine’s Day Party Decor!

Holiday Entertaining With Blue Diamond® Gourmet Almonds & Nut Thins®

This post was sponsored by Blue Diamond®. The opinions and text are all my own. #NutsAboutTheHolidays

I recently created a gorgeous, holiday-inspired charcuterie and party spread that turned out so well! Inspired by these delicious Blue Diamond® Gourmet Almonds and Blue Diamond® Almond Nut-Thins® from Walmart. Best enjoyed with those you truly love spending time with during the holidays.

In this post, I will show you a few inspiring ways to incorporate almonds, crackers, and other delicious ingredients into a stylish snack board platter, perfect for a holiday party and more!

#NutsAboutTheHolidays

While I have created my fair share of charcuterie boards in the past, I will admit, I have also spent a lot of time researching new ways to style charcuterie boards, chocolate boards, and other gorgeous platters of food. That’s just the food stylist in me, I guess! For this post, I was incredibly inspired by those images you may have seen of bountiful, well placed ingredients with lots of varied textures and flavors – something for everyone, I guess you could say!

#NutsAboutTheHolidays
#NutsAboutTheHolidays

RECREATE THIS SNACK BOARD

I consider this offering more of a snack board than a charcuterie board, because traditionally, the word charcuterie relates to a variety of meats. I am eating meat less and less these days, and my friends and family members are too, so I figured that I would just offer a vegetarian selection of goodies and call it a Holiday Snack Board.

One of the highlights of this snack board is definitely the brie cheese; with honey and herbed Blue Diamond Gourmet Almonds on top. It looks so elegant, and like it took a very long time to create. It was finished in less than 20 minutes and was the perfect pairing with the Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins.

Ingredients:

1 bag Blue Diamond Gourmet Garlic Herb and Olive Oil Almonds

1 box Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins

1 8oz. round of brie or similar cheese

3-4 Tbsp. honey (2 Tbsp. in small star shaped dish + 2-3 Tbsp. to top cheese)

2 cups cauliflower and broccoli florets

1 package of dill or parsley, or any other green herbs for garnish.

1-2 cups green olives, marinated in olive oil, a pinch of salt, and Mediterranean seasoning mix

1 cup red peppers, sliced small and thin

Any other cheeses you would like to add to your board, or that you already have on hand.

Instructions:

1.)   Bake brie cheese in a heat safe container, or on a baking sheet at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, covered in foil, until middle is fully molten. Carefully check if the middle has melted yet by applying pressure with a spoon or other utensil. You will sort of be able to tell of the cheese is liquid inside yet or not. Once that is fully baked, top with 2-3 Tbsp. honey and ¼ cup or a small handful of Blue Diamond Gourmet Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil Almonds.

2.) Place the brie onto a small round plate (mine measured 6.5” across), then arrange Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins around the plate. They fit there perfectly, and this made for an exceptional way to enjoy the crackers and cheese! I also placed a tiny sprig of dill on top, but any fresh green herb would work here, but is not necessary.

#NutsAboutTheHolidays

3.)   Place the brie in the center of your board as the focal point, then begin placing bowls of seasoned almonds, olives, and any sauces or dips on there too. Then, place crackers, fresh ingredients and any other fun goodies you have around the board to make a full, elegant snack board. Guests will LOVE what you have provided them with.

#NutsAboutTheHolidays

I was able to find so many incredible items to add to my snack board from Walmart, and I was so inspired by their large selection of snack items! Browse the fresh section, the cracker and nut aisles for the Blue Diamond products, plus the candy and snack aisles to find as many different flavors and textures as possible for your snack board.

#NutsAboutTheHolidays

This year for décor and styling, I am all about a pink Christmas and as always, shimmering accents and as many trees as possible. I used a large wooden cutting board for the base of the snack board, then used a pink ceramic cutting board with a handle as the main focus. That pale pink was everywhere this year, and I love it so much! It goes so well with whites, light wood tones, and other shimmering accents.

#NutsAboutTheHolidays

Happy Holidays! Make sure to check out the Blue Diamond website for more holiday entertainment inspiration!

Gourmet Game Day Dipping Station

This post has been sponsored by The Kraft Heinz Company. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that it makes life easier to let guests serve themselves so you can enjoy the festivities too. That’s why this Game Day Dipping Station is absolutely genius! This spread was a huge hit, and I cannot wait to show you all of the details. Get the recipes for two delicious dips, and also get ideas on how to style your next game day gathering. 

This Gourmet Game Day Dipping Station is sure to be a huge hit!

RECIPES (Serves parties of 6-8)


Featured Products + Ingredients


HEINZ Ketchup

KRAFT Mayo

KRAFT Ranch Dressing

KRAFT Mustard

Chicken Strips

Chicken Nuggets – 2 bags

1/3 – ½ C. chopped cilantro

1/3 – ½ C. fresh jalapenos, finely chopped

1/3 – ½ fresh dill, chopped

1 bag of curly fries – any brand you like

Juices

Glass Carafe to hold juice(s)

2 decorative bowls to hold dips

Floral arrangement – 2 packages of pine branches or source your own + 1 jar with water in it.

Small cake stands – optional

12 crispy rice treats

12 paper straws

1 cup white chocolate or almond bark – melted until smooth

Check out Kraft products at Dollar General, and get great savings on everything from Kraft in store as well!

Dip 1

1/3 C. cilantro + 1/3 C. finely chopped fresh jalapeno + 1 16oz. bottle of KRAFT Ranch

Dip 2

1 – 1 ½ C. KRAFT Mayo + ½ C. KRAFT Mustard + 1/3 – 1.2 C. fresh chopped dill

Instructions:

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread out Chicken Nuggets onto one, Chicken Strips on another, and fries on the last sheet. Set aside.

2.) Make both dips. In one medium mixing bowl, add 1 bottle of KRAFT Ranch, plus the cilantro and jalapeno. Stir until everything is combined. For the second dip, add mayo, mustard, and dill, and stir until combined. Transfer dips to two decorative serving bowls and provide serving spoons for guests. They're perfect when paired with the Chicken Strips and Chicken Nuggets!

3.) Bake food as instructed on packaging, and begin to prepare your delicious Game Day Dipping Station. I used a piece of light grey colored stretchy velvet as the table cloth, then I added one striped green and white kitchen towel to the center of the table. Place a small cake stand and floral arrangement in center of table and build out from there as symmetrically as possible.

I placed two decorate serving bowls with dips in the center, then Chicken Strips behind that, and lastly, the Chicken Nuggets and curly fries on the outsides.

4.) To make the treat pops, stick paper straws into crispy rice treats. Melt white chocolate and use a spoon to apply it to the treats, one at a time. Place them onto a prepared sheet pan, and also add sprinkles if you would like in team colors or others! These added a lot to the display and made a great dessert.

Dollar General is great - I found ALL the necessities there!

And below, you can see my two helpers. They love taking rides to the store with me! They are the best, and they'll definitely be enjoying game day with us. Have an amazing game day! 

Holiday Entertaining Kahlúa Cold Brew Martini Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Kahlúa. All opinions are mine alone. The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older. #ColdBrewMartini 

The Season To Shine

We had an amazing holiday party recently and enjoyed chocolate fondue AND a crowd pleasing Kalhúa Cold Brew Martini Recipe, featuring the brand’s original liqueur. Kalhúa is easy to find at Target and Walmart and many other retailers! If you enjoy coffee, then this martini is going to quickly become your new favorite cocktail! We all texted each other the day after the party, wishing we could get together again soon and have a few more cocktails together. It was a great night.

With lots of shimmering details, we set the mood with metallic trees, ornaments, gold tinsel, candy canes, velvet fabrics, faux fur, and of course, Kahlúa and chocolate fondue.

We really loved how the Kalhúa Cold Brew Martinis paired so well with both the warm, rich and creamy chocolate of the fondue and the dippable items. We want to also have a cheese fondue for our next get together because it’s such a fun and interactive way to host friends and family, because it’s all self serve, and people can get as creative as they want. Hover over the image below to shop for Kalhúa.

Kahlúa Cold Brew Martini Recipe

This is one of those 1-2-3 cocktail recipes, making it fun and easy to remember!

Ingredients

1 Part Absolut Vodka

2 Parts Kalhúa Original

3 Parts Cold Brew Coffee

Instructions

Ok, you’ll need shaker. Got it? Good. Now fill it with ice. Add one part Absolut Vodka, two parts Kahlúa and 3 parts cold brew coffee. Easy as 1-2-3. Shake the ingredients hard for at least 10 seconds to create a nice foam. Strain into a cocktail glass to get rid of all the small ice chips. Garnish with coffee beans if you would like. Enjoy!

Party + Fondue Details

Before everyone arrived, I prepped the space by lighting my tall, metallic silver tree, and also setting up a few other white and silver one-foot trees. I loved the color scheme, and I believe it would translate for so many of you, as well! With a more neutral and shimmering color scheme, your party decor gives a more timeless, nostalgic, and elegant feel to any event or holiday.

For the fondue, we melted 2 bags of 60% cacao chocolate chips + 2-3 tbsp heavy cream. We dipped in lots of foods we cut up ahead of time like strawberries, marshmallows, apples, graham crackers, and more!

Lower lighting also helps the strands of lights make an even more magical feeling for the evening. I had so much luck finding gold items in the holiday aisles at Target and Walmart and was so inspired by this year’s finds, as well as a few items I already had from years past.

I even found a couple of yellow trees to use in my decor, that closely matched the color of the globally recognized Kahlúa label. It was a great jumping off point and really made everyone smile.


Kahlúa goes great in so many cocktails, not only coffee-based drinks. It’s one of the most versatile liqueurs. It’s perfect for a casual night in, casual night out with friends, and even brunch, too! Sweet and refreshing to the last sip.

By placing cut fruits onto a holiday themed platter, the holiday mood was set instantly. Feel free to create a gorgeous spread of whatever items you want to dip.

Happy holidays, friends! We really hope you enjoy the amazing as well! This #ColdBrewMartini was a huge hit!
BONUS! Looks like we are featured as the VERY TOP POST for this hashtag! Check us out :)

Glitz N Glam Christmas Party Recipes with 7UP + Canada Dry Ginger Ale at Target

This post was sponsored by Keurig Dr Pepper. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Must be 21 or older to consume alcohol. Please drink responsibly. #SipSipHooray

So excited to share a drink recipe AND a fun candy-making recipe that you’re definitely going to want to incorporate into your next holiday gathering. Show your friends and family just how much you care about them by making this year’s festivities extra Glitz N Glam too. Let’s raise a glass to this fun time of year and get to celebrating! I am so excited to share two fun holiday recipes that both incorporate 7UP and Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and I know you’re going to be so inspired to visit Target and incorporate some of these ideas into your next shindig!

If you are someone who believes it’s not a great party without some sort of theme and décor, then you are just like me. I love everything to coordinate and look polished and put together, but I don’t want to spend a ton of time working on setup when I could be prepping food and drinks instead. This décor idea is simple and very easy to recreate, and can be very good for your party budget as well.

The holidays are the absolute perfect time to go a little more on the sparkly, glitzy, and glam-inspired look. After years of styling parties for my blog, and for my friends, and family, I really know what works and what is not so much worth the trouble. For instance, I used a backdrop décor theme of white and silver, and made sure the overall color scheme reads shimmering winter, which allows the food and drinks to be the star of your party. Any time I can incorporate metallics into a party theme, I do it because a bit of shimmer really classes things up, and makes the party feel even more special! This sort of color scheme is also great because silver and white are colors that are pretty readily available at most craft stores and can even be found year round!

Luckily, I was able to find most of my ingredients and party supplies at Target, my FAVORITE place to get inspired for parties and holidays! I love walking their home décor, food, and party aisles to get ideas for upcoming events and parties. They seem to have just about everything and more. You can sSave on Canada Dry and 7UP with Cartwheel, now in the Target app.

I also love how silver and white portray a very classic and elegant look, which makes it incredibly versatile for all ages!

This drink I created, the Orange Spice Punch, is PERFECT for those who love a flavor that is a little more tart with sweet undertones. Also, using a cinnamon stick for garnish was neat because you could stir the drink with it, then the cinnamon taste and aroma was in the drink too.

Also, orange and dark chocolate are a delicious pairing, so making these chocolate truffles with a darker chocolate was a really good idea. The 60% cacao chocolate chips really tasted amazing to use as the base of the chocolates.

7UP ORANGE SPICE PUNCH

(Recipe Found Here)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 qt. orange sherbet

  • 2 L. 7UP®

  • 12 oz. Canada Dry® Ginger Ale

  • 6 oz. orange juice

  • 6 oz. cranberry juice

  • 1 cup Canadian whiskey (optional)

  • Lemon, lime, and orange slices; cinnamon sticks; and pumpkin spice, for garnish

  • Prep Time: 4 minutes

  • Ready In: 6 minutes

  • Serving Size: 30 people

DIRECTIONS

  • Add everything except for sherbet into a one-gallon punch bowl.

  • Float scoops of sherbet on top.

  • Let sherbet soften in the punch for a few minutes before serving.

  • Garnish with lemon, lime, and orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and a touch of pumpkin spice.

Please drink responsibly.

Best served in something extra fancy! 

7UP FIRECRACKER CANDY TRUFFLES

(RECIPE FOUND HERE)

INGREDIENTS

·       POPPER CANDY

·       Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

·       1 cup granulated sugar

·       2 tbsp. light corn syrup

·       1/4 cup 7UP®

·       1 tbsp. baking soda

·       1-2 tsp. citric acid (optional, adds flavor)

·       Pink food coloring

·       TRUFFLES

·       1-2/3 cups heavy cream

·       1 bag of chocolate chips (good quality 60% cacao), chopped + 6 oz. more for coating truffles (I used 1.5 bags of chocolate chips altogether)

·       Pinch of salt (I used large grain salt, it worked super well)

·       1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)

·       3/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)

·       1/2 tsp. chili powder (optional)

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes

  • Ready In: 2 hours 15 minutes

  • Serving Size: 10-12 people

DIRECTIONS

·       POPPER CANDY

·       Prepare a baking sheet with parchment and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

·       Place granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 7UP® in a pot, whisking to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, and cook until a temperature of 300° is achieved. Watch your temp, or this can burn relatively easily.

·       Remove from heat, and stir in baking soda, (optional) citric acid, and food coloring of your choice. The citric acid just adds flavor, which is super tart. So, if you would prefer to just have a sweet topping, do not include the citric acid.

·       Pour onto prepared baking sheet, sprinkle with remaining citric acid, and set aside to cool while preparing truffles.

·       TRUFFLES

·       To make the truffles, bring cream to a simmer in a shallow saucepan.

·       Place chocolate in a shallow bowl, and pour warm cream over chocolate.

·       Let stand for 10 minutes.

·       Stir with a rubber spatula until chocolate mixture is smooth.

·       Season with a pinch of salt, ground cinnamon, and cayenne.

·       Pour into a shallow baking dish, and chill in refrigerator until firm. This step was a bit tricky, but I found that spreading the chocolate in a pretty thin layer worked best and was the fastest.

·       To form truffles, scoop with a small ice cream scoop, melon baller, or kitchen spoon and roll into a balls. Feel free to re-freeze chocolate if it’s not firm enough to make the balls. Note – this step was a bit tricky. At first, the chocolate was way too soft to form balls from. I also had the chocolate freeze completely, because I left them in the freezer too long. Just check on the chocolate ganache at 15 minutes, then every 5 minutes after that.

·       Place truffles in freezer to firm up again before covering with more chocolate. Below, you can see an image of the chocolate balls after they have been frozen for about 20 minutes.

·       Once popper candy is cooled and hard, place in a large resealable bag and break up into pieces with a rolling pin or mallet.

·       Cover chilled truffles with melted chocolate, and then sprinkle with popper candy…“pop” one in your mouth and enjoy!

Above, you can see how I covered the truffles in melted chocolate – it was really fun, and I ate SO much chocolate in the process, LOL!

TIP

·       Keep in refrigerator, and be aware that popping candy need to be used quickly because of its delicate nature. Enjoy!

You can find more recipe inspiration at 7UP.com.

Setting up a Glitz N Glam holiday party is easy if you stick to these fun décor ideas, as well as offer guests food and drinks that they cannot resist! What is your favorite color scheme and recipe ideas for your holiday parties?

#SipSipHooray

Football Party Ideas + Updated Pigs In A Blanket Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Dr Pepper® and Eckrich®. All opinions are mine alone. #MyMeijerWin

Time to reinvent a classic, well-loved recipe that tastes better than ever! College football season it the perfect time to try out a few new recipes for guests, friends, and family alike! This grown up, more sophisticated version of Pigs In A Blanket will delight guests! Serve with ice cold Dr Pepper® for a pairing with Eckrich® Smoked Sausage, sure to be out of this world delicious! A true crowd-pleaser during your college football celebration - who will YOU be rooting for? 

Check out this mperks offer to save $1 on any TWO (2) Dr Pepper® 6pk 7.5oz cans or 8pk 12 oz bottles at Meijer (while supplies last).
Football Party Appetizer

I used one of my favorite ingredients, Eckrich® Smoked Sausage, to make this delicious creation, which would be AMAZING for your next game day or holiday celebration. People rave about these and always ask when I’ll be making more. Read on to learn more about my latest college football celebration, and get the details on how to make your next celebration a success. Our college's colors are maroon and white, so actually Dr Pepper is a fun choice to celebrate locally. PLUS, every single one of my friends is slightly obsessed with Dr Pepper, so offering this refreshment at any of my parties tends to go over well. The smoked sausage worked super well for this project too. 

I thought it was super clever to cut up the smoked sausages for this recipe, compared to using traditional small cocktail weenies. This made for a much better bite! 

Football Shaped Party Appetizer

Whenever I begin to plan a design for a college football party, I immediately think of which vintage elements I want to incorporate. For some reason, I associate football with the nostalgia of times (and games) past, PLUS I believe that a vintage style theme and set of decorations will appeal to all age ranges, which I love. If someone who can have a sort of connection to my decor, whether they are actually attending my parties OR viewing the recaps on my blog, it means a lot to me.

Football Shaped Appetizer

PRINT THE RECIPE:

RIGHT CLICK AND SAVE OR PRINT

Football Shaped Pigs In A Blanket
Football Shaped Party Appetizer

GAME DAY PARTY DETAILS: 

To choose your colors, decide what color metallic you like best. I chose gold here, but silver or copper would be your other common choices. The gold accents really catch the light so well, and can make any party décor look more classy. These metallic gold, plastic utensils almost look real, and the gold shimmering tinsel (found in the gift wrap section at a craft store) really made things shimmer. I thought that the gold tinsel reminded me of pom poms!

5DA_3414.jpg

Next, I used lots of rustic wooden surfaces, and one small vintage crate to get some of the items on the table up at eye level. I love setting up the food and drink table(s) with items being served at different heights. This adds SO much visual interest to the party offerings! This is such a better alternative than simply laying all the food on an uninviting table.Taking a few extra moments to consider the design of your food and refreshment table seems to at least make party setup more exciting on my side as well.

Let people serve themselves by offering Dr Pepper and other drinks in nice containers or a cooler, so you do not have to serve each guest individually. This gives you way more time to enjoy your company rather than stressing out by hosting so much. 

Football Party Ideas
Football Party Ideas

I incorporated football themed cups, plates, and napkins wherever I could! I loved this rather vintage look for the party, with rustic woods, plaid patterns, and even a vintage looking font for the Tailgates and Traditions can carrier, above. In addition to being a cute way to display Dr Pepper at your college football parties, this carrier (or some other fun 6 pack holder) would be perfect to tote your soft drinks to the game or to tailgate.

As soon as I begin to see football related party items in stores. I tend to pick them up. We celebrate all football season long, and so having a lot of different party items on hand makes life a little bit more fun, in my opinion! 

Do you tend to go all out when decorating for football parties / game days, or do you tend to scale things back a bit and just stick to the essentials? Either way, offering guests Dr Pepper and these updated Pigs In A Blanket will make your next get together a win!

Football Party Ideas

I offered guests three different flavors of mustard to compliment the Pigs In A Blanket - I used a traditional yellow one, a creamy dijon, and a stone ground. But, whatever you have will likely work! Just serve the mustards in small glass bowls or anything that spruces up the presentation, and you're set. I definitely consider that a #MyMeijerWin

Football party ideas
Football Party Ideas

If I am having a party, I tend to offer lots of dips, making each meal a little bit more unique and delicious. Above, you will see three different mustards that I shared. Simply use whatever you already have in your home, or head to Meijer and take a few minutes to see just how many varieties of mustard there are. I chose a yellow, a stone ground, then a creamy stone ground variety. Whatever mustard(s) you choose, they will pair super well with these Pigs In A Blanket! YUM!!! This celebration and these recipes turned out SO well, and I cannot wait for you to try something this delicious. Enjoy!! 

PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Football Party Ideas
Football Party Ideas!
Football Party Ideas

Elegant Halloween Party Inspirations

As the weather gets chilly and as we head into the last weekend in September, I am already in Halloween mode! I am doing some research for an upcoming project, and wanted to share my inspirations for an Upscale Halloween Party - decor and tablescapes. I have rounded up some of my FAVORITE and most inspiring Halloween Tablescapes! I generally do tons and tons of hours of research for every project, and realized that I should be sharing some of my inspirations!

First, I am featuring my favorite Halloween project of last year, this super easy to make Halloween Ghost Cake! I used a store-bought sour cream pound cake, iced it, and added Ghost Peeps! It turned out SO well and can be made in under an hour.

Below, this Halloween Mantle incorporates black and gold, and black creepy cloth to really add lots of great texture!

This Halloween Spider Cheese Ball would be amazing to serve with rustic crackers!

As always, Inspired By Charm brings the BEST Halloween decor to life!

Below, Coco Kelly put together this Sirens and Songs Halloween party that featured a bedazzled skull with nods to mermaids and those lost at sea…spooky!

Below, Williams Sanoma offers tips on styling this dark and elegant tablescape for Halloween.

Visit Tendir.com for TONS more inspirations!

Below, I am super inspired by crystals for party decor, and who knows, they might bring some good energy!

Crystals

Below, in2food uses their famous mirror glaze and topped the cake with an edible gold skull, coconut pieces as geodes, and also a 3D spiderweb! How stunning!

Elegant Skull Cake

Below, a gorgeous cake by CocoKelley, an all white Halloween Coconut Layer Cake.

And, below are a few more crystals for inspiration! Enjoy :)

Black Crystals

Two Amazing Recipes for Summer Get-Togethers with Mission® Tortillas

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mission®. All opinions are entirely my own.

If summer get-togethers make you giddy with joy and excitement, then you’re not alone! I too love brainstorming recipes with friends, then planning, prepping, and preparing the food, then finally getting everyone together to enjoy the bounty. Food always brings people together, and is great shared with old friends and new ones! This summer, I am going to make it my mission to enjoy the company of others over great food as much as possible!

I love how these Mission® Super Soft Flour Tortillas really made my two recipes even better than I could have ever imagined. I have tried all sorts of tortillas, and these are the softest, tastiest ones yet. They were so versatile, and absolutely perfect for my Vegetarian Southwest-Inspired Pinwheels AND for my Grilled Steak Tacos. I always feel like the tortillas make or break a recipe, and I was so happy to find a new favorite. You can use the store locator on the Mission website to find Mission tortillas at stores near you, and find even more delicious recipes as well.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced this, but I am always let down when tortillas kind of get dried out super quickly, then kind of crack when you roll anything out of them (like the pinwheels). Well, these were perfect. They held together super well, and worked amazingly well for this 4 ingredient appetizer!

And, since I wanted to offer lots of delicious toppings for these Grilled Steak Tacos, my first thought was fresh ingredients of course!

I thought it would be so fun to offer guests some handmade pickled jalapeños as party favors. Every time we serve these to guests or bring them to someone’s house, we always get lots of compliments on them.

PICKLED JALAPENOS

(Making 1 day in advance is recommended)

I think it’s time to start sharing them with people, so I filled mini jars with a mixture of fresh ingredients like jalapeño slices, garlic cloves, and mini red onions. Now, it’s time to pickle!

I heated a solution of 1.5 cups white vinegar plus 1 cup water, and 1-2 tbsp salt until the salt has dissolved. Let it cool a bit, then carefully pour the vinegar solution over the ingredients, leaving a little bit of room at the top of the jar so it does not spill out. Place lids back on, and gift as soon as the next day.  

These turned out SO cute, and you could even tie cute ribbons around the jars for an even more festive look.

In addition to the pickled jalapeños, I offered pickled red onions (get my recipe here), plus a guacamole tomatillo sauce and a traditional red salsa too.

The lettuce even came right out of my own garden! This was my first year to try growing lettuce, and while it may be almost at the end of its season, I love treating friends to things I grew!

GRILLED STEAK TACOS

INGREDIENTS:

1/3 cup olive oil

2-3 tbsp soy sauce

2-3 tbsp or more taco seasoning

Juice from 1 lime

1 tsp salt

1-2 lbs flank steak or similar

INSTRUCTIONS:

Simply marinate each pound of steak in 1/3 cup olive oil, 2-3 tbsp soy sauce, 2-3 tbsp or more taco seasoning + the juice from 1 lime + 1 tsp salt for at least 1-2 hours or overnight. Simply grill for 3 or so minutes per side if your steak is thin like mine was. Slice and serve with fresh sides and warmed Mission Super Soft Flour Tortillas (they taste best warmed).

Slice up the steak and set out the toppings, the tacos are ready to eat!!!

SOUTHWEST INSPIRED VEGETARIAN PINWHEELS

I searched for vegetarian pinwheel recipes and hardly found anything! These are so great tasting, and you will never miss the meat.

Ingredients:

1 package Mission® Super Soft Flour Tortillas

Plus 1-2 bunches of cilantro

1 head of green lettuce

To create the sauce:

1 (8 oz.) box of cream cheese, softened

½ cup (or more) taco sauce or red enchilada sauce

½ - 1 cup cream cheese

¼ - ½ tsp salt, optional

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.    Mix all sauce ingredients together, and stir until smooth. I used a hand mixer

2.    Lay one tortilla out onto your work surface, and spread 1.5 -2 tbsp sauce in an even layer on tortilla.

3.    Add a line of cilantro and a line of small pieces of lettuce towards one side of the tortilla, then roll up into an even roll.

4.    Cut in 2” sections, and display on a cute tray. I used cactus pieces from a local market.

Enjoy!

 

The bottom line - I would definitely recommend Mission Super Soft Flour Tortillas to anyone who loves superior taste and excellent ingredients!

Happy summer, friends!

Dr Pepper Pick Your Pepper Summer ~ Indoor Picnic Ideas

While summer is all about enjoying the outdoors, here in southern Illinois / most of the Midwest, the heat and humidity sometimes keep us indoors. I am not incredibly sensitive to the heat, but if you’re having guests over, not everyone is going to enjoy it or even be able to tolerate temps in the 90s, so you could always consider hosting an indoor picnic!

The theme/inspiration for this picnic was a bountiful French picnic that features ice cold Dr Pepper Pick Your Pepper theme bottles (a personal fave), and lots of delicious snacks. Nothing super heavy as far as food, just smaller bites that you and your guests can feast on throughout the evening.

Keep reading to learn more about how you can win fun and festive prizes for Summer.

Each 20 oz. Dr Pepper bottle features over 40 artistic and inspiring labels that contain a Snapchat code on them. To unlock this fun filter, simply open Snapchat, take a photo of the Snapchat logo / code on the side of the bottle, then a little notification will appear, giving you access to the filter. Below, two of my favorite Snapchat filters were outdoors themed.

YOU CAN WIN!

Callout that the fun, unique Pick Your Pepper packaging and how it’s fun, individualized, and designed by millennials, for millennials. Available in stores starting 6/15/18.

Call out the prize reward and drive to  http://bit.ly/2pts8Qo

When you buy Dr Pepper 6/15-8/15 this summer, you can upload your reciept at http://bit.ly/2pts8Qo  to get the prize featured in my blog here and/or other prizes like:

Spend $5 get 5 bottles = Dr Pepper Retro Specs

Spend $10 get 10 bottles = Dr Pepper Copper Lined Mug

Spend $20 get 20 bottles = Dr Pepper Bluetooth Speakers

Spend $30 get 30 bottles = Dr Pepper Pool Float

CHECK OUT THE RETRO SPECS, BELOW…

Scan the Snapchat code on any Dr Pepper Pick Your Pepper to reveal a unique filter you can use! I then save the image and share it wherever you want! Below, two of my favorites!

My boyfriend Bobby and I love being outdoors, so these filters are super cute. He adores fishing, so the Snapchat filter, shown above that says, “Keepin’ It Reel” is perfect for him!

While this particular picnic I hosted for this post was indoors, I loved bringing traditional outdoor picnic elements into the evening with galvanized metal trays to hold food, easy to eat bites of a huge assortment of foods, and even cozy floor pillows, rugs and lightweight picnic blankets. I still love incorporating rustic elements into my events no matter where I host!

There are so many benefits to hosting this picnic indoors - Think of it, no bugs, no heat, and all the food and drinks one can possibly snack on throughout the evening without having to leave the elevated comforts of home. It’s such a fun way to enjoy time with friends or have a date night!

TO SET A COZY SCENE:

I love the idea of reminiscing about days past, where we would put pillows and blankets onto the floor and have a sleepover. Now that I’m older, we don’t really do that anymore, so it’s fun and nostalgic to reminisce and more or less make a soft place on the floor to settle in for the evening! It could be super fun to set this up in the living room, where everything is centrally located. Or, even on a porch!

I also added upscale touches like French-inspired textiles in stripes and plaids of white and blue. I packed some of the 20 oz. bottles of Dr Pepper into a metal “picnic basket”, which was a great way to carry the bottles plus lots of other necessities.

FOR THE FOOD:

I am always drawn to bountiful plates of fruits and other bite sized foods, so this was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at not one but three snack trays!

For one platter, I used a large, round galvanized tray with handles to hold everything. I then placed a white charger plate in there, plus a marble cutting board to hold the meats and cheeses (this was the least messy way to display them), then placed items like croissants, red and green grapes, strawberries, and more.

For another tray, I placed mini chocolate chips, blueberries, and blackberries. For the last tray, I placed a bit of herbed goat cheese dip, sliced baguettes, and crackers to dip into the goat cheese.

I was so happy with how upscale everything looked!

TO SERVE YOUR GUESTS:

I used lightweight linens, gold plates, and gold plastic utensils (that almost looked real!!), which added a bit of shimmer and glitz to the picnic. The gold and white looked really lovely.

It would definitely be fun to host a similar picnic outdoors if you live somewhere the weather is nice all the time! I love this particular color scheme, and I know those party platters would really look great at so many of your summer events.

Connect with Dr Pepper across social media!

Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest /Instagram

PIN IT FOR LATER...

Summer Grilling at Kroger with Smithfield + Yuengling

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Smithfield®. The opinions and text are all mine. #GrillOutChillOut

Summer is JUST getting started, and I would love to know what your plans are for the next few months! Going anywhere fun or exciting? Planning out any cookouts or summer parties? I love using summer as an excuse to get together with friends, family, and good food – there’s nothing that tops the fun and excitement I get when I know there is something fun on the horizon.

Last year, I had the opportunity to feature Smithfield® Yuengling® Traditional Lager Bratwurst from the Smithfield® Craft Collection™ in a post about making summer grilling easier and MORE delicious. You can read that post here. This is the flagship beer from America’s Oldest Brewery!

This time around I decided it would be fun to serve these brats in a traditional manner with buns and grilled onions, PLUS it could be cute to serve these brats in more of a finger food / appetizer style - cut into slices and served with mustards.

Find everything you need for summer celebrations at your local Kroger or Kroger. The bratwurst are infused with real Yuengling Traditional Lager (a.k.a. DELICIOUS!!), and are made with premium cuts of pork and a special blend of sweet and savory spices. I just love the unique taste of these, and it’s so nice to not actually HAVE to cook them in beer before grilling, because the Yuengling flavors are already there.

Since I was incredibly inspired by the history of brats in general, I was particularly inspired by German or Bavarian offerings. I found that bratwurst generally contain fresh sausage, and if you’re looking for something that is already cooked, then sausage is typically available in dried, cured, or fresh varieties. This means that the brats do need to be cooked or grilled until their internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. 

I decided to offer guests five or more different styles of stone ground or other higher end mustards, with slices of the bratwurst, then we could all try something new.

If you’re “brave” enough and want to experiment with even more pairings, feel free to offer guests some sauerkraut (which is a finely cut cabbage that is fermented, and tends to have a stronger smell if you’re not used to it), which would add an even more authentic taste to this meal.

I kept thinking about how these foods would be served at a traditional festival where brats and beer are the main focus, and I thought more of a party platter (in my case a wooden cutting board with a handle) full of small bites was definitely the way to go.

Mustards are something that I am just beginning to enjoy. BUT, my boyfriend and a few of our friends seem to “compete” to see who can eat mustard with the largest number of different foods. I am fine if I don’t win that contest, but mustard is such a versatile and traditional condiment that I want to even learn to make it soon.

I found five different mustards at the store, ranging from Stone Ground varieties to Dijon mustards and even one mustard that is bourbon barrel aged! 

I basically just looked to see which ones had the most texture (as in more mustard seeds), plus which ones would offer more of a visual variety and also as many different tastes as possible. This could be a great way to get rid of some mustards in the fridge that are only half full – just offer them up and I am sure they’ll get eaten!

As far as other foods to serve, I love the idea of offering fresh homemade soft pretzels plus hard pretzels (like the smaller crunchy ones), plus perhaps some slices of super crunchy bread or similar.

Below, you will see those lovely grill marks on the brat buns! This added SO much more flavor and visual interest to the meal.

CONNECT WITH THE BRAND ON SOCIAL:

Instagram- @smithfieldbrand, @yuenglingbeer

Facebook- @cookingwithsmithfield, @yuengling

Twitter- @smithfieldbrand, @yuengling_beer

Pinterest- @smithfieldbrand

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!

PIN IT FOR LATER...

DIY Drink Koozie Tutorial

Making Game Day Cleanup A Breeze with Glad ForceFlex Plus Advanced Protection

This post has been sponsored by Glad. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This football season, make Game Day cleanup a breeze! Glad has a NEW and improved version of their already superior trash bags called Glad ForceFlex Plus Advanced Protection – now available at Target! If you’re looking for a trash bag that will not leak, and will hold ALL of the mess that can accumulate during a Game Day celebration, then Glad can help. Featuring reinforced side seams, RipGuard™ AND LeakGuard™ I am happy to introduce Glad’s Best Bag Ever!

I styled the most gorgeous Game Day party last Sunday, while watching the playoff games, and had so much fun decorating and hosting friends. I used an aqua and red color scheme, but feel free to use your favorite team colors. The Target party aisle provided nearly everything I needed to keep the color scheme looking perfect throughout all of my décor.

Entertaining friends and family can be a bit of a mess afterwards, but I was not at all concerned with cleanup, because I had made a Target run the day before to stock up on everything. From Glad bags to treats and party décor, I was set to host the cutest celebration of the season.

Target had almost everything I needed. I first headed to one of the aisle labeled Trash Bags, and grabbed a box of Glad ForceFlex Plus Advanced Protection trash bags. Next, I perused their party and celebration aisles and their Dollar Spot at the front of the store (my favorite area of Target) and found red and white cake stands, aqua colored paper plates, red cups, clear treat bags, and aqua colored napkins. I thought that a non team-specific color scheme would be fresh and exciting. I also found my juice bottles to cover with paper, and a few other food items as well.

Since these Glad ForceFlex Plus Advanced Protection bags are so new to the market, click any of my images or the graphic below, to buy now! 

I’ve always used some form of Glad ForceFlex trash bags in the past, so I was super pleased to be able to feature such a high quality product in this celebration. I can’t stand when a garbage bag breaks on me, because that’s seriously no fair! I have to take the super full garbage bags all the way outside (let me tell you, we stretch them until they’re FULL at our house – (I call it being conservative, not lazy), and if anything were to get on my clothes from the bag, I get all squeamish. I am sure I’m not alone on this one? So, these Glad ForceFlex Plus Advanced Protection trash bags are always in my house.

Back to the festivities! I also provided some super delicious football-inspired food at this party. I was so happy when I found cookies at a bakery called San Francisco Cookies! They were already shaped like footballs, so I simply outlined them in chocolate decorator icing, and then I drew the football laces with white decorator icing. It was way easier than making them myself and it saved so much time to not bake cookies.

I also found little chocolate creme sandwich cookies and used that same white icing to draw threads on them too.

I always try to incorporate chocolate desserts for football parties because I love how the color of chocolate reminds me of the football itself. So, I offered guests a few more bakery items like a chocolate layer cake (perfect to feature on the middle cake stand), plus mini chocolate muffins with chocolate chips in them.

I made some wings in my crock pot and found an awesome homemade BBQ sauce recipe that contained brown sugar, ketchup, red wine vinegar, stone ground mustard, and soy sauce. When they were ready to serve, I placed them on another cake stand, and sprinkled sesame seeds on top.

I placed football shaped bowls of BBQ potato chips around, and also filled little clear treat bags with snacks like popcorn and pretzels, then tied them up with a twist tie and football printed ribbons. Everyone likes something a little different, so I offer as many flavors as I possibly can!

I always love seeing customized refreshments, so you can remove the original drink wrappers, and simply cut a piece of scrapbooking paper into 2.5” tall strips, and cut them to fit around the bottles. I used a brown and white football printed design!

Football Party Decor and Food Ideas

I also found the cutest “chalkboard” paper bunting that I wrote on with chalk. I used a pencil to sketch out footballs and “GO TEAM” then went back over that with chalk. They turned out so cute!

Thinking about all this food and décor might sound like it makes for a messy house afterwards, but I know thatGlad ForceFlex Plus Advanced Protection trash bags can hold a ton, and won’t leak or rip  – YAY!

I hope I have inspired your next Game Day gathering, and if you share any photos, feel free to leave the link(s) in the comments below! I would LOVE to see how you celebrate and decorate for the big game.

Remember to shop at Target for all of your Game Day and clean up essentials! 

PIN IT FOR LATER...

Cutest Game Day Party Decor!

Vintage-Inspired Football Party Plus 2 Recipes

Brought to you by Dr Pepper® and Eckrich®.

I am so excited to bring together lots of adorable décor and recipe ideas that I have been wanting to try out for a while now. This Football Party was inspired by Dr Pepper and Eckrich, which both embody the traditional taste of game day.

This party was the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops and go wild with classy and chic décor that makes me nostalgic for the past.

During my research phase for this post, I could only find a few examples of this sort of look I was going for, so I headed to Meijer, and then the fabric store to begin brainstorming. Walking around a store for inspiration is seriously priceless.

I wanted that vintage, chic, fall tailgate sort of look, and I think it turned out so well!

Football Party

THE DÉCOR DETAILS

I incorporated plaid flannel material for the tablecloth, which reminds me of a warm and cozy blanket or scarf one might wear to a football game on a chilly Sunday.

Next, one of my favorite DIY projects was to print out vintage football images from the 1930s for my bunting, which I taped to my wall. I made sure to print out the photos so two would fit onto an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, horizontally oriented.  

I also incorporated a few mini orange pumpkins, as well as my favorite mint cake stands to hold all of my refreshments and some of the snacks. For the drinks, I think it would be great to offer guests pitchers or containers of ice, and cute plastic cups for their Dr Peppers or other refreshments.

The chocolate donut “cake” is also amazing! I used 24 chocolate covered donuts to make the cake, beginning with two rows of 5 donuts, then two rows of 4 donuts, then one row of 3, then three single donuts stacked on top of one another. This cute display held together extremely well! I also added the football picks, also from a party store, to add that football aesthetic I was going for.

Vintage Football Party

As soon as I began to notice the cute Dr Pepper football themed soft drinks in stores, I knew it was time for football! I was so excited to learn that I had this amazing opportunity to collaborate with Dr Pepper and Eckrich that I rushed to Meijer right away to grab supplies. Eckrich Smoked Sausage can be found in the packaged meat aisle, and Dr Pepper can be found in the soda aisle.

Vintage Football Party
Vintage Football Party

Dr Pepper is the one fans crave and is the perfect complement to tailgating and homegating events during the college football season! Eckrich Smoked Sausage is Naturally Hardwood Smoked and crafted with just the right blend of spices for a truly rich, savory taste. Their Smoked Sausage Links are the perfect addition to any tailgate, cookout or family meal.

Vintage Football Party

Mini Smoked Sausage Pot Pies

COOK TIME: 45 minutes

SERVING SIZE: 6-12

INGREDIENTS

·       1 package (10-14oz) Eckrich Smoked Sausage

·       1 package (10oz) Frozen Mixed Vegetables, cooked

·       1 can (10 ¾ oz) Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

·       1 can (16.3oz) Flaky Layered Refrigerated Biscuits

·       Non-stick Cooking Spray

·       Salt & Pepper to taste

PREPARATION

A miniature twist on a classic pot pie.

1.     Directions Preheat the oven to 375°

2.     Prep: Cook the frozen vegetables according to the instructions on the package. Set aside. Dice the Eckrich Smoked Sausage into cubes. In a large skillet, cook the sausage until browned. Remove from stove and set aside.

3.     Filling: In a large bowl, combine the cooked vegetables, smoked sausage, cream of chicken soup, salt and pepper to taste. Stir with a spoon until the ingredients are mixed well.

4.     Assembly: Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Separate the biscuits and flatten each into 5½ inch rounds. Press firmly into each muffin mold. Spoon 1/3 cup of the pot pie mixture into each pie. Pull edges of dough over the filling towards the center, pleat and pinch gently to hold in place.

Chicken Pot Pie "Cupcakes"

1.     Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Cool for 1 minute; remove from pan and serve. These popped RIGHT out of the muffin tin, and looked gorgeous instantly. These taste like warm biscuits with chicken, sausage, and veggies inside. YUM!!!

Vintage Football Party Ideas
Chicken Pot Pies

Smoked Sausage Appetizer Bites

COOK TIME:  15 minutes

SERVING SIZE: 20

Appetizers

INGREDIENTS

·       1 package Eckrich Smoked Sausage (12oz-14oz)

·       20 bite-sized crackers (I used saltines)

·       2 tsp olive oil

·       1/2 package (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

PREPARATION

Keep the crowd happy with these Smoked Sausage Appetizer Bites. They’re perfect as a snack or an appetizer.

1.     Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.     Slice sausage into ½-inch pieces.

3.     Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add sausage to skillet and cook until browned.

4.     Top sausage pieces with cheese, then place skillet in oven and bake until cheese is lightly browned.

5.     Place cheese-covered sausage on crackers and serve.

 

Appetizers

A FEW MORE DETAILS

Caramel Apples

Since I wanted a nostalgic, vintage look and feel to the décor, I thought that the caramel apples were just perfect for fall. Below, I found these cute football shaped dishes at a party store and thought they were just the right festive touch for the party!

Appetizers
Football Party Ideas!
Football Party Ideas

Simply Nice! Revamped Snacking + Boho Decor Ideas For Your Next Party

I was so thankful to be asked by Carusele to participate in the #SimplyNice campaign, sponsored by Walgreens. Although I have been compensated, all opinions are my own.

Hosting a casual and elegant get-together is my favorite way to host friends and family. My friends sure know how to snack, so I always make sure to have extras on hand, too. I have always enjoyed the Nice! Products from Walgreens, and I have been noticing a few ch-ch-ch-changes lately in their packaging and ingredients. They are making a huge effort to offer products that have the best ingredients available. I appreciate this so much, because our local Walgreens is open 24 hours, so a lot of people are depending upon them to offer the very best.

5DB_9827.jpg

With the recent change in weather, going from extreme heat and humidity down to nearly 70 degrees, I am seriously using any excuse to have friends over. We all love to let our dogs play outside, which somehow makes us hungry – that’s when I know it’s time to bring out the snacks and get ready to feast! I feel good about snacking with the new line of Nice!® products from Walgreens.

I like offering guests a wide range of options, and if you’re looking for baking ingredients, look no further – the Premium Raw Mixed Nuts, shown above, feature unsalted cashews, almonds, pecans, and walnuts. I love the idea of baking fresh items for guests, that way the house smells amazing when they arrive!

HOW TO REVAMP YOUR SNACKING

If you are looking to replace those unhealthy or rather boring snacks, head to the snack aisles at Walgreens and you won't be disappointed. Their snacks all have great flavors that are unique to their products, and IU just love them! I also cannot believe how many organic options they have!

Begin by reading the labels. The new Nice!® packaging, available among many departments in the stores, showcases easy-to-reference icons at the top right of the front of every item. This nutrition info is right there to help you make the best decision for you.

SIMPLE - HONEST - DELICIOUS

Above, their motto and also mine! 

I could not believe how many new items they have available locally, and I’m sure I will start seeing even more soon. In this post, I featured newly packaged options like Magic Trail Mix, Chili Lime Cashews, Sesame Sticks, Tri-Colored Tortilla Chips (note - WITHOUT yucky food coloring like the traditional tri-colored chips I've seen), and Root Veggie Chips shown below. I just love the variety of colors in the last two options!

HOW TO REVAMP YOUR PARTY DÉCOR

If you want to impress guests with snacks AND décor, then I created a cute party look that would fit into my life and hopefully yours. I love the idea of casually sitting on floor pillows, so I found the cutest rugs ever and used them for inspiration! I laid down two woven style rugs, and one furry white rug. I also laid out a piece of this amazing crushed velvet material, which I thought would be cute to tie even more color into the look.

Next, I added some cute pillows – the more the BETTER, so use everything you can find J I love the Bohemian aesthetic, but you could use a more rustic or woodland look for a cozy and inviting theme.

I wanted a low sitting table, and did not exactly have one, so I created one myself! On top of a large wooden crate, I simply added a piece of stained wood I already had. This could be made from just about anything sturdy enough to hold your food and drinks without tipping over. I then laid a table runner across the top.

For the flowers, and if you’re planning a beer + snack tasting night, I thought it would be adorable to fill some brown glass growlers with water and fresh flowers (they traditional come from breweries so you can travel home with their beers). I also love how the brown glass and the color of the flowers really make it look more like Fall up in here!

Another fun way to dress up your party would be to provide guests with reusable, cloth napkins rolled up and wrapped with ribbon. I love the Eco-friendly aspect of this, and guests will love the oversized tea towels for their snacking adventures.

YUM!

The video below really does a good job of describing the new Walgreens Nice products and makes them very relatable! 

Another fun item I added to the party was a fuzzy, very light pink colored stool. The whimsical nature of it says so much and really compliments everything well.

Hopefully I have given you some insight on how to revamp your snacking and your party décor! For more ideas, visit me on Pinterest or Instagram. Happy snacking, friends!

Inspiring Bloggers Who Will Get You Ready For Fall

Happy First Day of School for the college students at SIU and more! I love this time of year, when I am starting to see all the Fall clothing out in stores and seeing a small glimpse of cooler nights. I am hoping to se that inspiration of the arrival of Fall for some upcoming posts. I cannot wait to start creating Fall posts, and I am sure a few of you are as well. 

I am constantly inspired by other bloggers, and I wanted to share a few top-notch bloggers who I think you will love! These bloggers create some of the most creative and awe-inspiring posts, and I rounded up a few of my faves for Fall!

Celebrations At Home

If you are excited for Fall, you're probably also excited for Tailgate Season. Check out this creative post, shown above and below, sharing ideas on how to enjoy a day with the girls - because why not?!

For an Earthy and approachable look, grab some Fall treats and apple cider, and utilize brown elements like burlap, paper straws, cute plates and napkins, and more. 

Jenny Cookies

I love the color scheme used in this amazing Fall Ladies Lunch post that Jenny Cookies hosted. She used her famous collection of Cake Plates, 

Below, Jenny Cookies put together a more rustic look for a multi-level dessert table. I also just love the simple wooden boxes, brown and white foods, and simplistic leaf buntings. 

Are you excited for Fall, or are you holding onto the last warm month or so of Summer?