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?

Simple and Indulgent Moments with Oikos Oh! Double Cream Yogurt

This post is sponsored by Oikos but all opinions are my own. #OhMGMoments

Time to de-stress and indulge in the simple pleasures of the NEW Oikos Oh! Double Cream Yogurts. There are four indulgent flavors to choose from, can you imagine how good the Salt Dusted Caramel Crème tasted?! This new yogurt is unlike any yogurt you’ve ever had. Made with double the cream versus Oikos whole milk yogurt, to create a one of a kind thick and luscious texture that you won’t be able to get enough of.

Delight your mouth with a spoonful of yogurt, no toppings are needed, That’s because The Salt-Dusted Double Creme Yogurt was such a treat! Enjoy this as a simple treat after a long day, during a movie or TV show, or even as dessert after a yummy home cooked meal.

The anticipation of that next bite is an indulgence in and of itself. As someone who works from home, I am always on the move. I find it hard sometimes to simply let myself relax and enjoy the simple pleasures in life because I know that something or other can be checked off the to-do list.

But, rewarding myself with a tasty snack like this one really helps me stay grounded and enjoy something to myself, time to take a deep breath, and time to indulge.

Learn more about Oikos Oh! Flavors Here!

Double Cream Yogurt Honey Drizzled Blueberry, Magnificent Mixed Berry Rhubarb, Lemon Sweet Cream Delight, and my favorite, Salt-Dusted Caramel  Crème. So many incredible flavors to choose from! I would recommend trying one of each to see what you like best.

What flavor would you choose? What are some of your favorite indulgences?

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!!!

Why You Should Be Using Bioré Witch Hazel Products

This post is sponsored by Bioré, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own. #BioreWitchHazel #BioreAmbassador #BioreBabe

Have you ever been curious about adding Witch Hazel into your skincare routine? Witch Hazel reduces redness and inflammation on your facial skin and boasts other amazing results too.

Get amazing skincare results with Bioré Witch Hazel products from Walmart (they always have the BEST prices!)

Wicked Pores? What is hiding in your pores can be downright scary and these extra-strength pore strips are no hocus pocus! Working like a super-magnet, they lift out even the most stubborn blackheads and deep down dirt & oil that can lead to complexion problems. YIKES! Formulated with Witch Hazel, known to tighten pores & for its astringent properties, these strips deep clean, remove blackheads, refine pores, and help prevent future breakouts.

Shop Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Strips Here.

Shop Bioré Witch Hazel Toner Here.

This product came into my life at a wonderful time! We are heading to the Florida Keys TOMORROW, and like most other vacations, I always try to get my skin looking great before heading anywhere that I’ll be in a suit, lol!

I have used the pore strips about four times in the last two weeks and WOW, my nose looks awesome! The pore strips have a witch hazel scent to them, which also acts as a bit of a way to open up the sinuses! While I have used other pore strips before (both the original ones and their Charcoal pore strips - you can read all about that in my post here)

HOW TO USE BIORE PORE STRIPS:

1.) Wash face and dry completely. Open pore strip and remove plastic backing. Wet the pore strip on the slick side, with a few drops of water and your finger tip.

2.) Stick pore strip onto nose, then smooth out onto nose with finger tips. Apply a bit of pressure so that the pore strip can really connect with your blackheads, and grab them!

3.) Wait about ten minutes, and once the pore strip has completely hardened, it’s time to remove it. I always recommend starting to remove the strip from one of the lower corners, but if there is anywhere it’s already starting to separate from your nose, begin there. Remove completely and use a bright light to check out all the blackheads you just removed!

4.) Make sure to then use a bit more water to remove any residue that the pore strip. That’s it!

WITCH HAZEL TONER:

This light-weight Toner with witch hazel helps restore skin’s balance as it deep cleans and removes residue a cleanser might have missed. Witch Hazel is known to tighten pores, while salicylic acid controls oil and treats blemishes. When Bioré® Pore Clarifying Toner is combined with this botanical astringent, wicked skin issues disappear faster than you can wave a wand.

BENEFITS OF WITCH HAZEL:

Long known for its astringent and pore cleansing properties, Witch Hazel is a multi-purpose remedy. The natural ingredient is known to tighten pores, purify, refresh and help heal skin. When Bioré® Pore Clarifying Toner is combined with this botanical astringent, wicked skin issues disappear.

Not all pore strips work like Bioré® Pore Strips! Unlike other pore strips, Bioré® Witch Hazel Ultra Deep Cleansing Pore Strips use a blend of C-bond technology to safely remove dirt, oil, and blackheads. These strips work like a super magnet, locking onto and lifting out deep-down dirt, oil, and EVEN blackheads from your most clogged pores. Bioré® Deep Cleansing Pore Strips are the trusted, dermatologist-tested way to purify pores. 

Long known for its astringent and pore cleansing properties, Witch Hazel is a multi-purpose remedy. This natural ingredient is known to tighten, purify and refresh your pores!

LEARN MORE ABOUT WITCH HAZEL

Here is an image of the Witch Hazel plant,  found here on bhg.com . While there are at least four varieties of the plant, this one is called  “Sandra” Witch Hazel.

Here is an image of the Witch Hazel plant, found here on bhg.com. While there are at least four varieties of the plant, this one is called “Sandra” Witch Hazel.

Witch Hazel is a very pretty flowering shrub that has a pleasant scent and surprisingly loves cooler temperatures. It’s apparently relatively easy to grow in full sun, and blooms in late winter to early Spring.

Witch Hazel may traditionally bring to mind its use in skincare products, the plant itself is so bright and eye-catching.Witch Hazel has the benefits of making your garden look as beautiful as your skin will after incorporating this amazing product into your routine! With ribbon-like flowers and golden-yellow color, witch hazel releases a spicy scent when it blooms in the fall.

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!

Sheet Pan Spicy Roasted Brussels and Rainbow Veggies Recipe

This post was sponsored by Colman’s, all opinions are my own.

A delicious and health-forward vegan recipe that makes eating your vegetables easy AND delicious. Colman’s Mustard Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Roasted Vegetables make an amazing holiday side dish, snack, or even dinner idea. Colman’s dry mustard does have some heat and spice to it, but it’s a very nice, subtle warming flavor which I just love.

Flavors of mustard grace the outer edges of a wide array of vegetables, in every color and crunch level –you’re going to love these veggies! The mustard flavor also paired exceptionally well with the other marinade ingredients like honey and soy sauce.

Plus, these vegetables make a very elegant dinner or side dish, and go very well with lots of different refreshments. I just love how pretty the Brussels sprouts are when they are cut open. They are like mini cabbages, and while they do have a stronger and sometimes more acquired taste than other vegetables, they are said to be high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The more vegetables one can incorporate into their diets, the happier their bodies might be. While everyone is of course different, I love treating my friends and family to healthier meal options.

I always love creating plant-based meals that offers a new alternative to dinner or a side dish. Impress just about anyone (even if they are “newbies” to or unsure about Brussels sprouts, these are definitely a crowd pleaser.

By incorporating Colman’s dry and wet mustards into the glaze for these vegetables, I absolutely LOVED the new, unique flavors that came through from baking the ingredients with such a great marinade. If you can imagine a potato or egg salad containing mustard, that is where I got the idea that potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and so many other veggies would pair perfectly with the Colman’s mustards.

Colman’s has been creating mustards since 1814, using time-honored traditions and the highest quality ingredients.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4-5):

Marinade:

2 Tbsp Colman’s Dry Mustard

2-3 Tbsp Colman’s Wet Mustard

1/3 C. Olive Oil or more, to ensure all veggies are fully coated at the end

2-3 tsp. seasoned salt

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

Suggested Vegetables:

2 Cups Brussels Sprouts (cut into halves, and cut some into quarters)

½ -1 C. thinly sliced Russet potatoes

½ C. sweet potatoes – chopped into small pieces

½ C. yellow zucchini

½ C. green zucchini

¼ C. corn – from cob or canned

1 head of garlic

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.) Prep all veggies, and cover sheet tray(s) with foil, Spray with non stick spray and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut off top of garlic head. Set aside.

2.) In a medium to large mixing bowl, mix up all marinade then add veggies to mixing bowl. Use tongs to coat all vegetables, then transfer all veggies to sheet pan(s). To create the garlic head, simply cut off the top of the garlic to expose the cut tops of each clove, while still leaving the rest of the head in tact.

3.) Bake 20 minutes covered with foil, then CAREFULLY remove foil (there will be lots of steam, which can burn someone easily). Bake 10-15 more minutes, and then remove from oven. Transfer to serving tray or large bowl, OR transfer into plastic containers to give to busy families during the holidays. Enjoy!

Here are a few more images of the finished veggies and head of garlic. Definitely recommended!

Have an amazing holiday! And enjoy this delicious, health-forward dish today!

Check out Colman’s Dry and Wet Mustards today, and spice up just about any savory dish you can imagine!

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! 

Dulce De Leche No Bake Dessert Recipe

Do I have a delightfully easy no bake dessert for you! This one would be PERFECT to serve during the holidays, and if you make it in a larger dish, this would be great for a crowd! These desserts are seriously incredible, and I think they would even taste great with chocolate syrup as well.

No Bake Dessert Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 pint heavy or light whipping cream

1/2-1 cup Torani Caramel Sauce (found at Walmart in the coffee aisle, near the chocolate sauces)

1 box of graham crackers (reserve several for top garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.) Place three medium-sized glasses on your work surface, and crush up graham crackers as small as possible. I placed 15 or more graham crackers into a stronger Ziploc bag, closed the bag, and then used a jar to crush up the crackers.

2.) Divide the crushed up crackers between the three glasses. Now, to make your filling! Beat heavy whipping cream for several minutes, until stiff peaks form. Reserve about 1/2 Cup of the whipped cream for your topping, then, add vanilla and Torani Caramel sauce, then finish mixing to combine everything. Divide the filling between the glasses.

3.) For the garnish, I used a sharp knife to carefully cut the graham cracker squares in half, then I cut a diagonal angle as well. This is totally optional, I just thought it was cute. Also drizzle more Torani syrup over the top of the dessert and enjoy.

Winnie The Pooh Mini Bear Sandwiches

These little mini grilled cheese sandwiches are inspired by Disney’s new movie, Christopher Robin. I found these to be incredibly fun and easy to make and can even be partially prepped ahead of time if you will be making a lot of them for a crowd. #WisdomByPooh

Winnie The Pooh Mini Sandwiches

INGREDIENTS (makes 10 sandwiches)

  • 20 pieces of sliced bread

  • cookie cutter in your favorite shape

  • up to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

  • butter spread or my favorite dairy free option, Earth Balance

  • skillet

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.) Simply use a cookie cutter to cut shapes from your favorite sliced bread. Those can be cut out up to one day in advance, then stored in an air tight bag.

2.) Heat skillet over medium heat, and add butter to each piece of bread, set aside.

3.) When skillet is hot, add as many pieces of bread as you can, butter side down. Sprinkle approximately 1 TBSP of shredded cheese per piece of bread. To avoid a mess, try to make sure the cheese stays on the bread, rather than getting it all over the skillet to burn.

4.) Place other pieces of buttered bread shapes on top, and let the cheese melt. Use a spatula to VERY CAREFULLY flip over the sandwiches to then heat the other side evenly, until cheese has melted.

5.) serve on a cute platter and enjoy!

I styled these in a Thanksgiving theme, but they would be amazing for just about any holiday. I thought they would be amazing for little ones, to tide them over as the full meal is being made. These could be a fun way to get picky eaters to try something new also.

Mini Bear Shaped Sandwiches #WisdomByPooh

Chocolate Lover's Gift Guide with GODIVA

I am sure we all have that special friend or family member who loves chocolate and deserves a little treat this holiday season1 Everyone who has had the pleasure of trying these new #GodiaGCubes has absolutely LOVED them and cannot wait to have more. I am so honored to have had the chance to help promote these delicious G Cubes for GODIVA! Here are a few of the cutest and most incredible gift ideas for the Chocolate Lover in your life!

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 :)

Welcome Home Gift Basket with Hallmark Signature Cards

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


I love the holidays. It's my favorite time of year because it’s the time to spread cheer to those we love and appreciate! I have always loved Hallmark Cards and they have been a part of every holiday since I was born. My grandmother would send Hallmark Cards to me for every single holiday (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, and more!), and I have a box of cards and photos that are a memento to my grandma, Pat.


This year's collection of Hallmark Greeting Cards at Walmart is extremely special to me, and I am so happy to be able to think of her as I look back through the cards she sent me. This gets me thinking about how important of a role greeting cards play in our lives. They help us spread a smile, words of kindness, words of consideration, and sometimes words of sympathy. It seems like there is really a card for every occasion now.

I also love how these greeting cards can be almost a gift in themselves, or accompany an amazing gift and put that final special touch on something like a Welcome Home Gift Basket. Above, I absolutely adore the woodland scene that is set! This gift basket I have created would be the perfect welcome home gift for family and friends who are visiting you during the holidays. I actually used the Hallmark Signature Cards as my color inspiration, which helped me tie a few really beautiful items together into one awesome gift. I found nearly everything at Walmart, including a Hallmark Signature Card, a pair of slippers, a fuzzy blanket, a winter candle, gloves, and more!

Perhaps you could create a set of his and hers gift baskets – Hallmark had TONS of cards for men, too, which I just loved. I would probably use colors like reds and blacks, plaids, and a rustic wooden basket for the container. Oh the possibilities!!!

Perhaps a plate of cookies would be inviting to someone who is visiting! I applied white frosting and some gingerbread decorations to traditional sugar cookies.

Hallmark Greeting Cards are incredibly enchanting and sophisticated, and they have such intricate designs. I could tell the designers and artists paid so much attention to every last detail. When I say little detail, I mean itty bitty, teeny tiny little details!

Speaking of gingerbread, this 3D Pop Up Card actually folds up into a little gingerbread house and is also an ornament! It’s really cute and folds up super easily. No glue was required at all!

DEAL ALERT!!!

I saw in-aisle coupons in the store, for buy 2 Hallmark cards, get one free. The other offer is a cute plush Holiday bear for only $3.97 when you purchase 3 Hallmark Cards priced at $1.97 or higher (offers available through 12/25/18 while supplies last). 

There’s also an Ibotta offer:  Earn $1 off a card purchase of $2.97 or more (offer available through 12/25/18 while supplies last)!
Hallmark has a couple of beautiful display at Walmart right now. It’s enchanting browsing all of their beautiful cards in the Holiday aisle, or the greeting card aisle... In this post, I featured two of the cards from Hallmark Signature Cards, and I also found that I loved a lot of the Hallmark Paper Wonder Cards as well. I was drawn more towards their whimsical greeting cards, the ones that made me want to be a kid again, and that had a lot of dimension to them. And, I thought it was fun to add a candle to the gift basket as well. It went so well with all of my colors.

I just love the enchanted woodland scene on this card, and my mom is going to LOVE it! I was so impressed by all of those little details that the layers of paper and glitter make. I actually used this card for some holiday decor inspiration around my home too! 

Hallmark’s latest designs are incredibly inspiring and will make the holidays and other occasions even more special. They are sure to help you continue to share thoughtful and meaningful moments and memories that will last a very long time.

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

These delicious stuffed mushrooms are not only delicious, they are very easy to make, and really make an impressive dish. Bring a platter of these stuffed mushrooms to your next party or potluck, or make them for dinner.

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

I was surprised by how easy these stuffed mushrooms were to make! Sure, I have enjoyed stuffed mushrooms in the past, but I have always been under the impression that they were hard to make because they looked so fancy and upscale. While there are several steps to this recipe, the finished product is well worth the time spent making a deliciously creamy spinach and sausage filling, which tasted incredible baked inside of these organic mushrooms.

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

INGREDIENTS (MAKES ABOUT 20 mushrooms)

1 lb. ground sausage or chorizo

2 (8-10 oz.) packages of button mushrooms (organic when possible)

1.5 - 2 cups chopped fresh spinach (chopped into very small pieces with scissors or a knife)

6-8 oz. cream cheese

1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on top of mushrooms)

1/3 - 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 - 1 cup red pepper - chopped into small pieces

Salt

Italian Seasoning

1/2 - 1 cup onion - chopped into small pieces

Baking sheet

Parchment paper - optional

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.) In a skillet, sauté onions and 2 tsp Italian seasoning 4-5 minutes. Add entire package of ground sausage, and then cook until brown (10-12 minutes). Use strainer in sink to remove as much grease as possible. Return to skillet, and add red pepper. Cook about 4 minutes, see mine above.

2.) Next, add cream cheese and shredded cheese and heat over medium low heat until everything has melted and is well combined. Add in your spinach and cover to steam for about 2 minutes. Lastly, stir in breadcrumbs and mix until combined. Remove from heat and grab a kitchen teaspoon.

3.) Begin to fill mushrooms with filling. I found that for these smaller button mushrooms, it doesn’t even take much to fill them, but you get a great 2-3 bite treat.

4.) Place mushrooms on a baking sheet, optionally lined with parchment paper and bake 12-18 minutes, until mushrooms are tender and you see some liquid leaking out. That means they’re ready!

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

My boyfriend said this was one of the best dishes I have ever made, and that really meant a lot to me! I hope you all enjoy these stuffed mushrooms as much as we did. Enjoy!!

Spinach and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

New Godiva G Cubes

Make it a GODIVA Holiday! Indulge and savor each bite of these @Godiva G Cubes, which are

available in flavors like Dark Chocolate Mint, Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel Ganache, White

Chocolate Coffee and MORE! These individually wrapped, gourmet chocolates make an

amazing gift or the perfect offering for a holiday party. Get yours today! #GodivaGCubes

Winnie The Pooh + Christopher Robinson Inspired Recipe

Enjoy family movie nights? If you are a lover of all things Winnie The Pooh, then this Pooh Approved Snack Mix and DIY Hunny Pot are exactly what you could to make! Perfect for family movie nights, because sometimes doing nothing leads to the very best of something! Simply mix up teddy bear shaped crackers and other health-conscious snacks to please the entire family!

Winnie The Pooh Snack Mix Recipe for Movie Night

My heart is overwhelmed by this fun opportunity I had to create this recipe and one more for WINNIE THE POOH and DISNEY and HELLO SOCIETY!!!!!

Hassle-Free Holiday Meal Ideas + Veggie Foil Packets with Del Monte

This post has been sponsored by Del Monte Foods, Inc. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Holiday Meals

Each year, I seem to love the holidays more and more. To me, I love any excuse to

make delicious food and have friends and family over. So I thought it would be

fun to share an easy meal idea and show you just how easy this meal was. I

thought it turned out very elegant, and everything was literally devoured

pretty quickly.

These Veggie Foil Packets are a great vegetarian dinner alternative or side dish. These foil packets are so familiar to most people (think campfire dinners) but by adding more unique and colorful ingredients, these veggie packets can be taken to the next level and even enjoyed at a holiday dinner as a side dish! Simply put, these foil packets contain an array of ingredients like potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions, fresh herbs like parsley and oregano, and of course the Del Monte mixed veggies and green beans. Also, if you are put in the position when you need to offer a few vegetarian side dishes during the holidays, the veggie packets and the cornbread would be amazing.

Easy Holiday Meal
Easy Holiday Meal

Del Monte is my number one brand for everything canned during the holidays and during every month of the year. You can find them at your nearest retailer using this store locator. This could be a cute meal for Friendsgiving, for a fall or holiday date night, or something special for a smaller crowd during the holidays.

Visit Del Monte’s website to check out TONS more holiday recipes, here!

Ingredients: (Serves 3-4)

 VEGGIE FOIL PACKETS:

1-2 Cans Del Monte® Vegetable & Bean Blends Country Style

1-2 Cans Del Monte® Blue Lake® Cut Green Beans

4-6 pieces of foil (8”-10” squares) – 2 pieces per packet 

CREAMED CORN CORNBREAD CAKE + MUFFINS:

1 package cornbread muffin or cake mix (I used one 15 oz. box but you can also use two 8 oz boxes as well!)

1 egg

1/3 c. oil

1 Cup Del Monte® Cream Style Golden Sweet Corn

½ - 1 c. milk

Muffin tin

Cupcake liners 

WHOLE YOUNG CHICKEN:

1 whole chicken (organic when possible)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1-2 tsp salt

1-2 Tbsp seasoning (I used Greek seasoning, but use anything you would like)

Brush to apply olive oil (optional)

Parsley for garnish 

Instructions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare chicken. Place chicken onto a rimmed baking sheet and begin to brush olive oil over chicken. I basically drizzled the oil onto the chicken and then brushed it over. Next, I simply sprinkled seasoning all over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake for at least 1.5 hours. At a little over an hour, I carefully uncovered the chicken, then placed it back into the oven to finish baking. Make sure the breast is not pink anymore. A note on the chicken: there was a lot of juice in the cake pan from the chicken cooking. Be careful not to spill this juice or it may hurt you. Be very careful when handling this pan.

2.) Mid way through cooking chicken, prep for the veggie packets. Strain both cans of Del Monte veggies and divide them equally between 2 or 3 foil packets, To make the packets, simply place two sheets of foil on a baking tray, place veggies in the middle, then season with 1-2 tsp of your favorite seasoning mix and salt if needed. Fold two side of the foil inward, then twist the ends to keep everything inside. Place onto sheet pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until steaming. Carefully open the packets as the steam can hurt you.

Veggie Foil Packets
Veggie Foil Packets
Veggie Foil Packets

3.) Mix up cornbread ingredients and prepare pan. For my spring form pan, I sprayed it with cooking spray then lightly coated the pan in flour. Fill the springform pan about halfway full then pour the rest of the batter, cover with foil, and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes with foil covering until the last 10-15 mins. Pour the batter into the cupcake cups and bake muffins at 375F for about 15-18 minutes. The springform pan is not necessary, it just made for a wonderful presentation! Feel free to use any size or shape of square or round dish you have.

The Best Cornbread For The Holidays
The Best Cornbread Recipe
The Best Cornbread Recipe

4.) To serve, place chicken into shallow serving bowl or platter and garnish with parsley. Also, feel free to place cornbread cake onto a cake stand or on a cute dish with a spatula for serving. Lastly, either have guests grab veggies from a serving bowl or straight from the packets!

Delicious Holiday Chicken Recipe

Cleanup was super easy with this whole process. If you do not want to cook a whole chicken, you can use chicken drumsticks, thighs, or even chicken breasts. I say this because it can take up to 2 hours for the chicken to be fully cooked if the bird is 4 pounds like mine was.

I absolutely LOVED the green beans and the other vegetables in the new Mixed Veggies collection. I actually liked the vegetables more than any other part of this meal, and my friends also raved about each and every part. I had so much fun treating a few of my favorite people to an exceptionally thoughtful dinner during the holidays, which can be a super hectic time when people may forget to eat a “real meal”.

What are your favorite vegetarian side dishes to serve during the holidays?

Look out for these mixed veggies from the brand:

Del Monte® Vegetable & Bean Blends California Style

Del Monte® Vegetable & Bean Blends Classic Style

Del Monte® Vegetable & Bean Blends Country Style

Del Monte® Vegetable & Bean Blends Mexican Style

Connect with Del Monte on social and show off your recipes, too!

Canned Veggies Recipes

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Vegetarian Pot Pies Recipe with Amy’s Kitchen

Thank you Amy’s for sponsoring this post. #StartWithAmys this Soup Season.

With cooler weather on the horizon, it’s time to incorporate comfort food that will make you happy about what you are serving and eating. For over 30 years, Amy’s Kitchen has been cooking up vegetarian meals made with high-quality ingredients. As fall quickly approaches, it’s time to get your soup on!

Vegetarian Pot Pie Recipe #StartWithAmys
Vegetarian Pot Pie Recipe

I found a unique way to incorporate three varieties of Amy’s Kitchen soups into a Vegetarian Pot Pie, and I hope you love it! Since Amy’s Soups already taste delicious on their own, I was able to allow those flavors to shine, while simply complimenting them with a few more veggies and a flaky, puff pastry woven lattice crust. This dish can be made as individual pot pies, or as one large casserole – it’s completely up to you! And, feel free to use this lattice technique, or simply use a full sheet of puff pastry crust right across the top.

Vegetarian Pot Pie Recipe

This homemade, vegetarian dish is waiting to be served at your next weeknight dinner, holiday meal, or even as a make-ahead meal that can be frozen and baked in just a short time, making dinner exceptionally easy AND delicious!

The phrase “comfort food” definitely comes to mind with this dish. It’s filled with an array of veggies, plus Amy’s Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup, Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup, and their Organic Vegetable Barley Soup. This dish is literally brimming with vegetables, you are going to love it. Even super picky eaters will enjoy this food. It’s a great idea to stock up for the cooler months with Amy’s soups! Keep a few soup cans stashed in your pantry (or desk!) for those times when you want something tasty that will warm you up as well. I always feel better after a warm meal, and these soups make an exceptional meal all on their own!

I love this cream of mushroom soup - it could surely be enjoyed on its own, warmed up with a handful of oyster crackers in the bowl for some crunch. I have never found a cream of anything soup that I am happy with. I have found that most canned cream soups are all way too thick and just full of unnecessary ingredients, and I have found too some have a sort of strange aroma. This has always turned me away from using condensed cream soups, but now I have a newfound hope thanks to Amy’s Kitchen! The Cream of Mushroom Semi-Condensed Soup worked super well for the base of this recipe, and would even be super delicious heated and enjoyed on its own, or with a handful of soup crackers.

I have fond memories of my mom making chicken pot pie many, many times as a child. She would use a traditional recipe that incorporated chicken and a small portion of veggies. It was always amazing, but as I grew older, and realized the importance of eating plant-based, I knew I needed to adapt a few of my most treasured family recipes into vegetarian versions.

Luckily, all of Amy’s products contain high-quality ingredients. That is extremely important for me, and I am so happy I have made a small lifestyle switch to considering each and every ingredient in the foods I eat and prepare for those I love. At Amy’s, they choose the best ingredients for each recipe. They cook with ingredients that people use in their own kitchens and trust, like carrots, beans, flour and spices! They don’t use a lot of starches and thickeners (which I do notice when I open their soups and other foods. They rely instead on slow simmering and cooking to develop soups and creamy sauces. This is very apparent as I was using the Amy’s Cream of Mushroom soup, it’s a really smooth texture without being overly thick, like other cream canned soups.

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Veg Pot Pie Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

1 can Amy’s Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 can Amy’s Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup

1 can Amy’s Organic Vegetable Barley Soup (any of their other vegetable soups will work well too)

1 sheet of puff pastry

½ red onion - chopped

1-2 cloves garlic – minced

1-2 TBSP olive oil

½ of a red potato – chopped into very small pieces

1 c. broccoli – chopped into small pieces

½ c. corn (frozen or canned)

½ c. frozen peas

2-4 TBSP seasoning (I use a mixture of low sodium seasoned salt and a Greek spice blend)

1 TBSP butter or butter alternative

3 TBSP flour

salt

Optional 1 egg for egg wash (simply use which to stir up one egg in a small bowl)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.)   Sautee olive oil, onions, and garlic, and 1-2 TBSP seasoning for 2-3 minutes. Once onions are soft, add potatoes and cook at medium heat for about 3 minutes with the pan’s lid on. Carefully stir the potatoes once during cooking, and replace lid.

2.)   Add 1 cup broccoli, corn, and frozen peas, and simmer another 3 minutes. Add up to 2 tsp more seasoning at this point, and stir to coat all veggies.

3.)   Turn off heat, and transfer all veggies from skillet to another heat safe bowl and set aside. Do not clean or wipe out skillet yet.

4.)   In this same skillet, melt 1 TBSP butter. Once melted, stir in 3 TBSP flour, and stir until combined. This helps to thicken the sauce. It will look “chunky”, but that’s ok!

5.)   Add 1 can of Amy’s Organic Cream of Mushroom soup, and stir to combine. Turn heat back onto medium, and add the bowl of veggies back into the skillet. Stir to combine, and heat for 2-3 minutes while stirring, to combine and thicken everything.

6.)   Preheat oven to 400 degrees for Transfer into prepared baking dish(es) – make sure to spray them with non-stick spray first!

7.)   Time to do the crust! Either place one sheet of puff pastry across the top of the baking dish and trim the sides and cut vents at top, OR use the lattice technique I have shown in this post!

8.)   To lattice: cut ½” or 1” strips out of your puff pastry sheet and weave them across the top of the pie. I start by placing three strips vertically, then working on weaving in the three horizontal strips. From there, I can then place the remaining strips of puff pastry into the top of the pie. Cut excess dough hanging over sides of baking dish, and if you want, use your fingers to gently press the dough strips down onto the baking dish so it does not move while baking.

Vegetarian Pot Pie Recipe

9.)   Brush top of pie with an optional egg wash, and bake small pies for 17-22 minutes or one pie for 25-35 minutes. The puff pastry need to be pretty crunchy on top to ensure that the dough touching the filling is not doughy.

Vegetarian Pot Pie Recipe

What a fun and comforting vegetarian meal to make for your favorite people! Perhaps you could even surprise a busy family with a frozen version of this pie, and they can enjoy a vegetarian meal in a less than a half hour of baking time! Enjoy!

Vegetarian Pot Pie Recipe #StartWithAmys

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