November 22, 2017

2017 Holiday Gift Guide: My Favorite Things

Here's another holiday gift guide of some of my favorite finds this year. I hope you'll be able to find something for all the different kinds of people in your life, including yourself!

1. Silicone Muffin Liners: I have mentioned these several times on my blog because I love them so much! They are not only reusable, but they leave your muffin pan clean and your cupcakes or muffins nice and fluffy. I swear everything bakes better in these silicone molds. Also my main tip for cleaning them is to soak them with some water right after you remove your muffins. Scrub, rinse and done!
2. True Lime Shaker: I've already raved about this product on Instagram, but I can't get enough. True Lime is real crystallized lime that is amazing sprinkled on practically anything and can be substituted for real lime juice. They also have lemon, orange and drink mixes. You can usually find this on Amazon as well, but the prices seem to fluctuate more.
3. Priority Chef Knife Sharpener: I can't believe I've never owned a knife sharpener until now. I guess they've always seemed intimidating for some reason, but when I saw this style, I knew I could handle it. This sharpener works for straight and serrated knives and it's so easy to use! And for $18 it's the best deal around.
4. Flexible Plastic Cutting Boards: There's nothing worse than storing bulky, heavy cutting boards, am I right? These boards are so thin, fit great in the dishwasher and bend so you can dump your food into whatever bowl/pan you need to. I love the bright colors and also the price. You can't beat $6!

1. Kindle Paperwhite: While I've mentioned it on the blog before, I can't recommend the Kindle Paperwhite enough. I went from reading maybe 1 or 2 books a year to 24 just this year alone. That's craziness. The fact that it's portable and you can carry thousands of books in one small device is amazing to me. The best part is it actually looks like the page of a book and it won't hurt your eyes in the dark. Oh and the no-glare screen is incredible, too. Just buy it already! ;)
*Also the best places to get free or inexpensive eBooks are through your local library, Book Bub, Goodreads Deals and Kindle First
2. Bookshelf Tees: This is a newer company and I love everything they create. I own the Library Card tee, which is such a clever design. If you or someone you know is a book lover, they will love these book-inspired tees.
3. Barnes and Noble Collectible Editions: I'm a little late to the game with these books, but aren't they amazing?! They still have so many available online and I want them all. They're all leather bound and the artwork is incredible. 
4. Pancakes! An Interactive Recipe Book: The foodie and book nerd in me are obsessed with this book. Not only is the design amazing, but the content is as well. You basically "make" pancakes by adding flour, whisking in the eggs, pouring batter and flipping the pancakes. They also have a Pizza and Tacos one that I'm excited to get for my boys for Christmas. My 3-year-old asks to read it every day. It's so fun!

1. Brit + Co. Planner: I've always loved paper planners and Target has the cutest lineup. This one is undated so you can start using it whenever you like. It's so pretty inside and out!
2. Anker Lipstick-sized Portable Charger: We all know that phones tend to die in the worst possible places, but with this tiny portable charger, you can recharge your phone anywhere! It's so compact and they run from $15-$20. You can't argue with that price!
3. Multi-size Zipper File Bags: These may seem like organizer overkill, but I bought these recently and they've completely changed the inside of my purse. I now have one for diapers and wipes, hygiene items, my charger/Kindle and beauty items. There are so many options online, but I love the top zipper on these for easy access and that they're mesh so what's inside is a little more discreet.
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: While my family isn't overly messy for the most part, this book had some great tips. I didn't agree with everything the author mentioned, but I love how she goes into how to easily discard items in your home and how to only keep things you love. Her biggest piece of advice is to find a place for everything in your home. *Hence #3 

1. Butter Bronzer: This bronzer has the prettiest shimmer and goes on so smoothly. And the very best part? It literally smells like coconut. You'll wanna smell your face all day long.
2. Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick: I actually received this as part of a beauty box and I fell in love with it. It really does moisturize your lips like crazy and has the prettiest tint. I own Almond Nude, which has a great color and smells/tastes amazing.
3. Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink: While there are a million different lip inks out there, this one is a great price and it really does stay on. It has a pretty matte finish, but you can easily add some clear lip gloss for some shine, too.
4. Wet n Wild 1 Step Wonder Gel: I'm all about gel nail polish and this is a new one I've tried this year. It stays on so much longer than regular nail polish, especially on your toenails and I love this pink color.

1. Gold Sunburst Mirror: This is something I really want in my living room or bedroom. I really like this one from Wayfair, but there are also so many others to choose from so it might be a tough decision.
2. Coleman Beach Shade: These beach shades are all the rave right now and I really want one for my family. It would be great for soccer games, on the beach or anytime to get out of the hot sun.
3. Vivere Double Hammock with Stand: This hammock has such amazing reviews online and it's only $113. I realize I wouldn't be able to use it for months, but I think the wait would be worth it. Think of all the books I could read in that thing. ;)
4. Modern Watercolor: This book was just released by one of my favorite artists and I'm so excited to get it! I bought a watercolor paint set a few years ago and I really need some kind of book to guide me. Can't wait to bust out my paints!

Well that's it! I hope this guide helps you on all of your holiday shopping adventures. :)

For more holiday gift ideas check out these past guides:

*This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

November 20, 2017

Homemade Italian Sodas

I'll be honest, I'm not much of a pop drinker. It just doesn't do anything for me and usually makes me sick. But the other day, I ordered an Italian soda from a local soda shop and I've been craving one ever since. They aren't as sugary and in my opinion, have the perfect amount of fizz.

There is something so simple and delicious about Italian sodas and the flavor options are endless! I've only used Torani syrup, but you could easily make your own simple syrup at home. These would be so fun to have at a party, too!
And if you'd like to make an Italian cream soda, simply add in some half-and-half and enjoy!

Homemade Italian Sodas
Adapted from Genius Kitchen
Makes: 1 serving
3 Tbsp. flavored Torani syrup (we’ve loved coconut and raspberry so far)
8 oz. sparkling water or club soda
crushed ice
whipped cream, optional
2 Tbsp. half-and-half, optional

1. Fill a 16 oz. glass half full with crushed ice. Add the Torani syrup and pour the sparkling water or club soda over the ice. Stir until combined. Top with whipped cream if desired.

To make it an Italian cream soda, pour half-and-half over mixed drink. Stir in just prior to drinking. Top with whipped cream if desired.

November 17, 2017

Grasshopper Poke Cake

If you're not familiar with the term "grasshopper" when it comes to desserts, it basically means the combination of mint and chocolate. Who knows why and how that term came to be, but it is one of the best combinations. It's also my husband's favorite kind of dessert so I decided to go all out and make him a decadent poke cake for his birthday this week.
This poke cake does not mess around! Not only is there the standard sweetened condensed milk poured over it to fill in the cake holes, but hot fudge sauce is added as well. Oh and might as well top it off with mint flavored whipped cream and Grasshopper cookies. I mean, why not?
This cake is so fluffy, dense and surprisingly lighter than you would imagine. For all of you chocolate/mint lovers out there, this is the cake for you!

Grasshopper Poke Cake
Adapted from Something Swanky
1 Devil’s Food cake mix + water, oil, eggs as listed on the box
1 (14.5 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (11-12) oz jar hot fudge sauce
20 Keebler Grasshopper cookies (or Thin Mints), divided
1 (16 oz.) container whipped topping (I prefer Lite)
1 tsp. pure mint extract
4-5 drops green food coloring, if desired

1. According to box directions, prepare and bake the cake in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Allow to cool completely.
2. Use the bottom of a large wooden spoon to poke holes evenly across the entire cake (about 36 holes).
3. Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk evenly over the cake, trying to fill each hole.
4. If needed, heat the hot fudge sauce in a small bowl in the microwave for 30-40 seconds to soften it up.
5. Pour and spread hot fudge sauce over condensed milk. Crumble or crush half of the grasshopper cookies in a ziplock bag and sprinkle over the cake.
6. In a large bowl, whisk together whipped topping, mint extract and food coloring. Spread the whipped topping over the fudge layer with a spatula.
7. Crumble or crush the remaining grasshopper cookies and sprinkle over the whipped topping.
8. Lightly place plastic wrap over cake and refrigerate to chill for at least 4 hours (overnight is best). Cut and serve once chilled.

November 15, 2017

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I don't know about you, but when I think of beef stew I think of pure comfort food. My mom used to make it all the time when I was younger and I LOVED it. The fall apart tender roast beef, carrots and potatoes were unreal you guys.
While I swear I'll never be able to recreate my mom's stew, this one is pretty amazing. It's so easy to throw the ingredients in your slow cooker, set it and forget it. The best part is the addition of the flour at the end that makes the broth nice and thick. It's SO GOOD you guys.
If you're looking for the perfect stew to warm you up as the days get colder then this is it! I promise you'll love it.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Adapted from The Recipe Critic
1 1/2-2 lbs. boneless beef, cross-rib roast, cut to 1 inch cubes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
5 medium carrots, sliced
1 lb. yukon potatoes, cut into eighths
1 small white onion, diced
3 tsp. garlic, minced
3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour

1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper beef and add to the skillet, searing on each side for 2-3 minutes. Transfer beef to the slow cooker. Add carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic.
2. Add beef broth, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Cook on low for 8-10 hours and high for 6-8 until beef and veggies are tender. (If you’re slow cooker has hot spots like mine, cook on low and knock off a couple of hours of cooking time.)
3. An hour before serving, take out 1 cup of the beef broth and whisk with 1/4 cup flour. Stir into the stew until combined.
4. Let the stew thicken and then serve hot.

November 10, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Muffins

Now why some of you may be sick of seeing pumpkin, I think you'll still want to make just one more pumpkin recipe this year. These Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Muffins are so fluffy and have the perfect amount of spice.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a pumpkin recipe that used as many spices as this one, but that's the reason it's so good!
These muffins are the perfect way to use up an extra cup of pumpkin puree and the best part is your kids will love them, too! I mean what's not to love about all those chocolate chips in every bite??
I mean come can you resist these? They're so good and I'm sure you'll love them, too.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from Rebekah Nixon
Makes 16 muffins
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. each of nutmeg, allspice and pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 silicone or paper muffin liners in 2 muffin pans. Set aside.
2. With a hand-held or in a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugars and vanilla until well combined .
3. Add in the pumpkin puree and oil. Beat until combined.
4. Next add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir until combined. Pour in chocolate chips and gently mix in.
5. Using a muffin scoop, spoon batter into muffin liners so they are 2/3 full.
6. Bake 25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
7. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before placing on cooling rack.

November 8, 2017

Shredded Chicken Enfrijoladas

Before I saw this recipe online, I had never even heard of enfrijoladas. Had you? They are basically enchiladas smothered in a yummy black bean sauce. And let me tell you, the black bean sauce is everything. It's a simple mix of black beans, chipotle, broth and other spices, which creates all the flavor in this dish.
You can easily stuff these bad boys with any filling you desire, but I just love the chicken and cheese combo rolled inside of tortillas. I mean what can be better than that??
Just like with enchiladas, this dish comes together in no time and you can top it with whatever you like. So far we've tried cilantro and queso fresco on top and it's proven to be just right. I think a squirt of two of fresh lime juice would be perfect as well. Enjoy!

Shredded Chicken Enfrijoladas
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
1 batch Chipotle Black Bean Sauce (see below)
6-8 flour tortillas
2 medium chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Toppings: queso fresco, avocado, red onion, lime, juice, sour cream, etc.

Chipotle Black Bean Sauce
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, or more if you want it spicier
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup diced white onion
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and season with extra salt if needed.

1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Spread 1/2 cup of the prepared black bean sauce evenly over the bottom of a 9x13-inch greased baking dish. Set aside.
3. Lay one tortilla at a time on a plate and fill with 2 Tbsp. or so of shredded chicken. Top with 1-2 Tbsp. of cheese, roll it up and place seam-side-down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, chicken and cheese.
4. Pour the rest of the black bean sauce evenly over rolled tortillas and spread with pastry brush if needed. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese over top.
5. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
6. Serve immediately with cilantro and your favorite toppings. 

November 6, 2017

Braided Pumpkin Bread

I posted about my Pumpkin Dinner Rolls three years ago and that was the first time I had ever had a savory pumpkin bread. It honestly changed the way I thought about pumpkin. With this braided pumpkin bread, the pumpkin is so subtle and it makes it SO fluffy. And check out that beautiful color! Isn't it pretty?
This bread is perfectly soft with an amazing taste and is so easy to make! It requires a bit of rising time, but of course that part is all hands free. It goes perfectly with soups, stews and some honey and butter slathered on. If you have a cup of leftover pumpkin puree sitting in your fridge, be sure to make this recipe right away!

Braided Pumpkin Bread
Slightly Adapted from The Stay at Home Chef
Makes 1 loaf
2½ tsp. instant yeast
2 Tbsp. warm water
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup warm milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 1/2-4 cups all-purpose flour (3 1/2 worked perfectly for me)
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Dissolve the yeast into the water in a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer.
2. Add in the pumpkin, milk, butter, egg, brown sugar and salt. Mix until well combined.
Add 1/2 cup flour at a time until a nice, soft dough forms.
3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes or so until is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise about 1 hour.
4. Divide the risen dough into thirds. Roll out each third into a long snake or rope (about 18 inches long). Lay the 3 ropes next to each other on a lightly greased baking sheet. On one end of the rope, pinch the 3 strands together and begin to braid. When you've braided the entire loaf, pinch the remaining ends together.
5. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes. Brush the braided dough with the lightly beaten egg.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until golden brown.

October 30, 2017

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

I've been meaning to post this recipe for months and am just getting around to it. Honestly it's the perfect time to be posting it though since we're nearing the holiday season where cookies are in abundance at every family gathering.
These Cinnamon Roll Cookies are unreal. I'm a huge fan of snickerdoodles, but the cinnamon and white chocolate chips embedded in the dough take this snickerdoodle to a whole new level!
These cookies are perfectly crispy on the outside and soft as soft on the inside with deliciously creamy bites of cinnamon and white chocolate chips in each bite. Can you tell I'm obsessed?
They do need some chill time in the fridge, but they are so worth it. You will not be disappointed!

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Yields: About 24 cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. packed light-brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup cinnamon chips (I use Hershey's)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
For Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 
2. In a medium-large bowl, stir flour and baking soda together. Set aside.
3. Beat butter and sugars in an electric stand mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and then vanilla extract. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Mix in cinnamon and white chocolate chips.
4. Chill cookie dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The dough will be sticky, but if it’s too sticky to handle chill longer in fridge.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
6. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Once dough has chilled, use a cookie scoop to scoop dough, roll into a ball and roll each one in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
7. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until edges JUST begin to turn golden. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack.

October 27, 2017

Toasted Coconut Pancakes with Coconut Syrup

Hello coconut lovers!! I have the perfect recipe for you today. These toasted coconut pancakes would make an amazing breakfast, brunch or even dinner.
These pancakes are SO fluffy and honestly to die for! If you ever need a great buttermilk pancake recipe, leave out the coconut extract and you'll be good to go. But since we all know how amazing coconut is, leave it in, top them with some crispy coconut and amazing coconut syrup and your whole week will be made.
Toasting coconut sounds complicated for some reason, but it really only takes some coconut flakes or chips and an oven for about 5 minutes. The coconut syrup is super easy to make as well. It makes a lot so you'll have plenty for future breakfasts.
Even if you're not a huge coconut lover because of texture, which I completely understand, this recipe doesn't have the chewy texture of coconut and leaves you with the delicious flavor of coconut cream. Yum.

Toasted Coconut Pancakes with Coconut Syrup
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. coconut extract
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt together in a large bowl. Using the whisk, make a well in the center. Pour the buttermilk into the well and crack eggs into buttermilk. Add the coconut extract and melted butter into the mixture. Starting in the center, whisk everything together, moving towards the outside of the bowl, until all ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat (lumps are fine). *The batter can be refrigerated for up to one hour.
2. Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over low heat for about 5 minutes. Grease griddle or skillet with butter or oil. Turn heat up to medium–low and using a measuring cup, ladle 1/3 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake.
3. Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to surface and bottoms brown, about 2 to 4 minutes. Cook until the other sides are lightly browned. Top with toasted coconut and serve with coconut syrup.

Toasted Coconut
2 cups sweetened coconut chips or flakes

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spread coconut evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until light golden brown, stirring occasionally. Watch closely to avoid over-browning. Set aside.

Coconut Syrup
Adapted from Modern Honey
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk (not lite)
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. light Karo syrup
pinch of salt

1. Place canned coconut milk, sugar, and Karo syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. 2. Whisk together and cook for 8-10 minutes or until it starts to simmer. Once it starts to simmer and thicken remove from heat and serve.

October 25, 2017

Zesty Lime Chicken Nachos

Oh nachos. What a glorious, glorious invention. There's nothing better than a crispy, yummy carb topped with cheese, meat and some delicious veggies. What I love most about this recipe is the use of homemade tortilla chips that make the dish so much lighter. You could easily use store-bought tortilla chips if you're in a pinch, but they get pretty greasy and heavy after a few bites.

I also LOVE this lime chicken marinade. I think I might be using it in other dishes as well. It would go perfectly with any Mexican food recipe honestly. I mean what's not to love about lime?
These nachos would make the perfect appetizer, but they also make a great dinner idea! What's better than a pan full of cheesy finger food that everyone loves?
You can also add whatever toppings you like, too. So far we've decided that cheese, chicken, beans, cilantros and tomatoes are necessary, but corn, avocado, cilantro and some queso fresco would be amazing as well. So many possibilities!

Zesty Lime Chicken Nachos
Adapted from Diethood
1 or 2 large chicken breasts, butterflied if thick
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lime, zested
2 limes, juiced
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. garlic, minced
6 small flour tortillas cut into triangle wedges
cooking spray and kosher salt
1-2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
optional toppings: diced avocado, corn, queso fresco, sour cream, salsa

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large Ziploc bag, combine lime juice, lime zest, sugar and garlic. Salt and pepper chicken on both sides and place in the Ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 15 minutes in the fridge.
3. Cut the flour tortillas into triangle wedges and arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet.
4. Spray the flour tortillas with cooking spray and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake tortilla chips for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
5. Remove tortilla chips from oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
6. Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased dish or pan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
7. Remove chicken from oven and shred with two forks. Set aside.
8. Top prepared tortilla chips with shredded cheese, shredded chicken and beans. Place under broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and ingredients have heated through. (Watch closely so they do not burn.)
9. Remove from oven and place tomatoes and cilantro on top of prepared nachos. Serve immediately with other toppings if desired.

October 11, 2017

Korean BBQ Burgers with Sweet Chili Lime Mayo

Ohhhh these burgers you guys...I have been meaning to share this recipe before it gets too cold to grill outside because they are incredible! My husband and I couldn't believe the flavor. Such a fun twist on a classic burger.
Between the Korean BBQ marinade, the Asian coleslaw and the sweet chili lime mayo, I don't think there's a better burger recipe out there! I'm literally salivating just looking at these pictures.
Please, please, please make these before grilling season is officially over. You won't be disappointed!

Korean BBQ Burgers with Sweet Chili Lime Mayo
Adapted from The Recipe Critic
1 lb. 85% lean ground beef
1 package McCormick Grill Mates Korean BBQ Marinade (I found mine at Walmart)
4-6 slices provolone cheese
4-6 hamburger buns
Asian Coleslaw
2 cups of prepackaged coleslaw mix
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
Sweet Chili Lime Mayo
1/4 cup mayo
2 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
1 Tbsp. lime juice

1. To make the burgers: In a medium sized bowl add the ground beef and Korean BBQ marinade. Mix until just incorporated being careful not to over mix. Shape into 4-6 patties.
2. Preheat your grill to high heat and place burgers on the grill. Turning once, cook for about 8 minutes total until cooked throughout. Place slices of cheese on top of burgers when there is about a minute left of cooking.
3. To make the slaw: In a small bowl add the coleslaw, rice vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Toss until combined.
4. To make the sweet chili lime mayo: In a small bowl add the mayo, sweet chili sauce, and lime juice. Mix until combined.
5. To assemble the burgers: Place burger patty on the bottom bun and top with coleslaw and sweet chili lime mayo.

October 10, 2017

Lemon-Orange Butter Cookies with Orange Glaze

I've partnered with Paradise Fruit Co. to bring you these amazing cookies using their candied fruit. They sell an assortment of candied fruit, but I was most excited about using their orange and lemon peel in some cookies.
If any of you have ever heard of RubySnap in Salt Lake City, they have a heavenly cookie called the Judy that has an orange dough base studded with orange peel. That is exactly the type of cookie I wanted to recreate and I came pretty close.
This cookie comes together in no time and I loved the addition of the lemon and orange peel. It gave it such a great flavor and texture.
The cookies come out so soft and let me tell you, that orange glaze is phenomenal. I couldn't have had it turn out better if I tried.
Those specks of orange and lemon peel really stand out inside these fluffy cookies. You have to try them!

Lemon-Orange Butter Cookies with Orange Glaze
Adapted from Reynolds Kitchens
Yields 24 cookies
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk

Orange Glaze
2 Tbsp. softened butter
1 Tbsp. orange juice
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets parchment paper; set aside.
2. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well blended.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add half of flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until just combined. Add the milk. Beat about 10 seconds. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined.
4. Stir in orange and lemon peel until combined.
5. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto prepared cookie sheets.
6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set and the bottoms have browned. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack; cool completely.
7. For the orange glaze, combine the butter and orange juice in a small bowl. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Spoon over cookies.

*This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.

October 9, 2017

How to Weekly Meal Plan

Oh meal planning...I'm not gonna lie, it's not my favorite thing. But something that is my favorite, is knowing exactly what I'm making for dinner each night and already having the ingredients on hand.

I strongly believe the number one reason people hate cooking dinner is because they don't meal plan. I mean, what's worse than not having dinner ready by 6 because you don't know what to cook, everyone is hungry, tired and you still have to run to the store to grab a few ingredients. We've all been there and it's awful.

Meal planning takes away a large amount of stress because you're prepared. I promise it only takes about 20 minutes of your week to meal plan and it will save you time, money and the pain of having to wonder what's for dinner every night.

Meal planning also allows you to stay within a budget. Less trips to the grocery store means less money spent. We all know if we're going to the store for one ingredient, we'll come out of there with five things we don't need. You'll soon be able to realize what ingredients stretch your budget so you'll learn to not buy them as often.

And of course, the more you cook at home, the less you'll eat out. For a family of four, I spend around $75-$90 a week on groceries alone (this includes restocking pantry items, snacks and meals), which may sound like a lot, but if we were to eat out at a sit-down restaurant for only one night it would cost at least $30-40, which is almost half of what I spend on 7 meals I can cook at home. It's definitely something to think about.

This post has been a long time coming and I'm finally motivated to publish it because there are so many of you who want to know how to meal plan. So here are my tips and I hope they help!

Weekly Meal Planning Tips
-Spend a couple times a month looking for new recipes: Scour Pinterest, Instagram, your favorite blogs, cookbooks, and magazines so you'll have stockpile of new recipes to try.
-Create a simple place to save recipes: My favorite place to keep and organize recipes is Pinterest. It's so easy to categorize them and quickly browse through the meals that look the most appetizing to you. You can also organize them in a notebook, email and of course in a recipe box or binder. Check out my Pinterest here to see how I organize all of my recipes.
***-Have theme nights: This is my biggest lifesaver. Since I already categorize my recipes on Pinterest, it's so easy to to pick from 7 different categories so we're not having the same type of food every night. For example, one week might consist of Mexican food, salad, soup, homemade pizza, a chicken dish, breakfast and pasta, etc.
-Try at least one new recipe a week: This is why I love to cook. I can't imagine eating the same things over and over again throughout the month. While not all recipes come out as good as you hope, I guarantee you'll find some new favorites that you'll make for years to come.
-Keep a meal journal of recipes your family loves: I'm a firm believer in trying new recipes, but it's always great to have ones you know will turn out and have ones that your family will actually eat.
-Choose a consistent shopping day and make a list: I try to grocery shop every Saturday if I can with a list for the week. This not only saves me time, but money as well because I'm not constantly going to the store to buy more ingredients.
-Plan out your meals by checking the weather and your schedule for the week: Make soup on a cold day, grill on a hot one or plan a slow cooker meal for when you know you won't have time to make dinner one night. This makes a huge difference and you can obviously switch the meals around during the week depending on what ingredients need to be used right away or how your day is going.
-Plan meals and grocery list around sales and coupons: Check out the sales ad and coupons from your favorite grocery store and plan meals off of it. For example, if hamburger is on sale that week, make spaghetti and meatballs. This is especially helpful with seasonal items like fruits and vegetables.
-Plan your meals with rollover ingredients: If you only need 1/2 cup of sour cream for a recipe, plan to make another recipe that uses sour cream as well so you don't waste ingredients. AllRecipes has an ingredient search box that allows you to find recipes using certain ingredients. This is also one of my favorite recipe sites because they all have reviews.
-Plan out meals weekly, biweekly or monthly: Whatever schedule works best for you, put meal planning into practice. Weekly is best for me because I like to use a lot of fresh ingredients, but you could do it biweekly or monthly if you prefer.

SAMPLE MEAL PLAN (using theme nights and rollover ingredients)
M - Baked Orange Chicken over rice
T - Fettuccine Alfredo with Roasted Broccoli
W - Creamy Tomato Parmesan Soup and Breadsticks
T - Burger Gyros with Oven-Baked Steak Fries
F - Southwest Chicken Pasta Salad with Fruit
S - Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos with Cilantro-Lime Rice and Beans
S - Roasted Tomato and Garlic Pizza with a green salad

How to Make Cooking at Home Easier
-Make enough for lunch leftovers: This not only saves you time, but a lot of money, too. Also never having to think of what to make for lunch saves my sanity because making lunch is THE WORST.
-Prep food for busy days when you have extra time: If you know that chicken needs to be thawed for dinner, thaw it in the fridge the night before or chop veggies the morning of so you don't have to do it later.
-Keep a well-stocked pantry: Meals are so much easier to prepare if you have the right shelf ingredients. Check for sales and buy these types of ingredients when they aren't full price and always have them on hand. (Flour, olive oil, spices, condiments, vinegar, butter, rice, sugar, etc.)
-Stretch ingredients without starving: For example, you'd be amazed how far one large chicken breast will go. Buy them in a large package, trim them and freeze the ones you're not using this week. Some ingredients can also last into the next week so pay attention to what you have in your fridge.
-Don't overstock the fridge: Use what you already have so things don't go bad. If you have too many things in your fridge, things will go unnoticed and you'll basically be throwing money away.
-KEEP THINGS SIMPLE: Your meals don't have to be gourmet. Cook what you're comfortable with and branch out when you have some extra time. Not everything has to be homemade. If you don't have time to make rolls, buy them from the bakery or use frozen ones. The reason I love to cook is because I make things I want to and also things I know I'm capable of making.

*Meal planning is so important because it's healthier, cheaper and meals eaten at home bring your family together. And what is better than that?