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Cinco de Mayo & Kentucky Derby!

4 May

How often do two such spectacular events collide on the same WEEKEND day?  Not often is the answer, so huge celebrations are in order!  Instead of choosing one, why not celebrate both Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo
Kick off your Saturday with a Mexican inspired brunch.

Huevos Rancheros

Make the perfect margarita.  You can’t taste the beer but it adds a nice kick!

Snack on some darling pinata cookies

Cinco de Mayo pinata sugar cookies

 And of course, play some Mexican tunes!

 
Kentucky Derby
Pick your pony.  For the last 3 years I’ve somehow blindly picked the winner (seriously!) but of course didn’t wager anything.  This year I have a friendly bet going and will be rooting for Creative Cause.

Meet all the horses here.  Who do you like?

Make a mint julep.  Such a civilized drink.  And the mint makes it so refreshing!

And don’t forget to grab a huge Derby appropriate hat.

 
 Have a fun weekend!

Valentine’s Day Gifts

7 Feb

Valentine’s Day is only a week away.  While you may roll your eyes at this made up holiday, the truth is you’re still on the hook for giving your significant other some token of your affection.  But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your whole paycheck on a cliché gift.  Finding the perfect gift for a reasonable price is easier than you think!

Here are some (affordable) ideas:

Remind them that “Home is Where the Heart is” with a customizable print for only $25.  Choose the state or country you want, then select the city and LilyGene will put a heart there to mark the spot.  You can mark your sweetie’s hometown or even the city where you first met!

Customize Your Home Is Where The Heart Is - Wisconsin 8x10

Create some ambiance with this romantic star projector For only $22, it transforms your boring bedroom into a shimmering night sky!

Go old school and make a mix CD.  I used to love making my own mixes and even now, they’re my favorite thing to listen to in the car.  Each one is like a time capsule, capturing the songs you couldn’t stop singing back in the day.  It’s funny how much, and how fast, your taste in music can change!  You can get 50 blank CD’s for $15.

Snuggle up with some gourmet hot chocolate ($8 for 12 packets) and cute heart mugs ($3.95 per mug)

Channel your inner foodie by creating your own wine and cheese tasting.  Follow these steps to creating a perfect cheese plate, and then pick up a bottle or two of your favorite wine.  Trader Joe’s has numerous good bottles that retail for under $10. Green Fin Organic California Red Table Wine is one of my favorites, and I think it’s only $5 per bottle!

0412cheese-board

Make like Braveheart and rock a kilt…bath towel.  $29.99 is steep but at the same time, this towel is kind of priceless!

Roses have been done, so why not surprise your Valentine with some beautiful spring tulips?  The bouquet below is $29.99 (add $7-$20 if you want a vase) and comes with free chocolates.

20 Multi-Colored Valentine's Tulips with Chocolates

Choose some romantic movies (Must Love Dogs is $5.98)  and curl up with some gourmet popcorn!  Foodie Reflections has an easy recipe you can make at home.

Must Love Dogs (Widescreen Edition)

Whatever you end up buying remember, it’s the thought that counts! 

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

23 Nov

Wanna wow your relatives at Thanksgiving this year?  Make them some homemade peanut butter cups to take home!

These are SO good….and so simple to make.  They look impressive but don’t take much time.  Perfect for that last minute holiday treat!

Ingredients
4 cups of chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
Melt your chocolate chips, either in the microwave or in a double boiler.  Make sure the chocolate is completely melted and smooth, but be careful not to burn it!

Line a muffin tin with muffin liners.  Put a small spoonful of chocolate in the middle of each liner, than swirl it around so it completely coats the sides of the liner.   This is how you make the chocolate shell.  Once each liner is done, place the entire tin in the fridge to set for 20-30 minutes.

In the meantime, work on the next step- peanut butter!  In a medium sized bowl,  combine the peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth.  Then mix in the vanilla extract.

Take your muffin tin out of the fridge.  Fill each chocolate cup about halfway full with the peanut butter mixture.   Push the mixture down so it lies flat, then top off with a spoonful of your melted chocolate (you may have to reheat it if it’s hardened).  Spread the chocolate around so it seals off the edges and no peanut butter is visible. 

That’s it!  Once you’re done, just pop those bad boys back in the fridge to set.  And prepare your taste buds for a smooth delicious blend of chocolate and peanut butter.  These cups are SO good!

Candy Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies

28 Oct

My favorite part of Halloween, besides dressing up, is candy corn.  It’s one of the most addicting candies ever created. Try to eat just one, it’s impossible!

Rather than (ok, in addition to) just eating it straight out of the bag, I decided to  incorporate candy corn into cookies.  They’re perfect for a Halloween party!

Candy Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
2 sticks of butter (make Paula Deen proud!)
2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup candy corn
1/2 chocolate chips

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Roughly chop your candy corn so it’s in smaller chunks.  Look how pretty it looks!

In a big bowl, cream butter and sugar together until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, then add in the vanilla.  Make sure everything is mixed together well. 

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add this flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing until well combined.  Then, stir in your candy corn and chocolate chips. 



Drop by tablespoon onto your cookie sheets.  You don’t want the cookies to be too flat, or the candy corn will melt and might burn.  My cookies also spread a lot so make sure you leave ample space between them. 

Keep them in the oven for 8-10 minutes, but check them frequently.  When they are just turning golden brown and the dough is set, pull them out and let them cool on the pan.  They’ll continue cooking and you won’t risk burning them!

My first batch didn’t turn out well (they spread too much and fused into one big monster blob) but my second batch was so good I didn’t even have time to take a picture before they were being eaten!  Look at those big candy corn chunks- delicious!

Arugula Craisin and Grape Salad

23 Sep

I love arugula!  It’s a little bit spicy, and it makes salads much more interesting than plain iceberg lettuce (not to mention it has more nutritional value too!)

I usually eat arugula with parmesan cheese shavings and balsamic vinaigrette, but I decided to mix things up a little this time.  This salad is quick to make and the sweetness of the craisins pairs well with the peppery arugula and the slightly tart grapes.  Try it!

Arugula Craisin & Grape Salad

Ingredients:
1 bowl arugula
1 bunch of seedless green grapes
1/4 cup craisins (adjust amount to taste!)
balsamic vinaigrette

Directions:
Rinse your arugula and put it in a bowl.  Cut grapes in half and add to bowl along with craisins.  Drizzle the dressing over your salad, then toss to coat.  That’s it.  Easy and delicious!

DIY Spa Water

18 Aug

I don’t like to drink plain water.  I don’t know why, but it rarely quenches my thirst and I always find it so, well, boring!  However, I love the infused waters you usually find at spas.  And I got to thinking, how easy would it be to make some at home?

Answer? REALLY easy! 

Lemon-Infused Spa Water
Ingredients:
1 lemon
1 pitcher of cold water

Directions:
Fill your pitcher with cold water.  Cut up your lemon into rings.

Using the tip of your knife, gently remove the pits from each lemon slice.  Lightly squeeze some juice out of each slice into the pitcher, then drop the entire slice in!

And that’s basically it!  Put the pitcher in the fridge to chill, and to allow the lemons to infuse the water.  I let mine chill for about 20 minutes, and then poured myself a tall delicious glassful. 

This lemon infused water is so refreshing, and it feels a little luxurious too.  Close your eyes and pretend you’re at the spa!

If you don’t love lemons, you can also infuse your water with other things.  Some ideas- strawberries, limes, cucumbers, or mint!

Easy Banana Bread

19 Jul

If you’re like me, you have some overripe bananas lying around the kitchen.  What can I say?  Those things ripen faster than I can eat them!  The good news is, you can use them to make banana bread.  In less than 15 minutes you can have a loaf in the oven….

Easy Banana Bread

Ingredients
2-3 very ripe bananas
1/2 stick of butter (softened)
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, mash the bananas.  You want to mash them as much as possible so there are no big chunks in your bread.  Add the butter, sugar, and eggs and mix everything together.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until everything is combined. 

Pour the dough into a greased pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-50 minutes.

This bread is so delicious…I especially like to eat it for breakfast with a little butter.  It’s pretty much heaven!

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies

12 Jul

It’s 90 degrees here in Boston and humid to boot.  When it gets this hot, the last thing you want to do is turn the oven on and make it even hotter.  But what if you’re still craving dessert? That’s where no bake cookies come in!

They’re quick, easy, and require no oven time.  One of my favorite flavor combos is chocolate and peanut butter so I really like these cookies.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

Ingredients
3 cups quick oats
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 stick of butter
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Put the butter, sugar, milk, and cocoa powder into a saucepan.  Bring to a roiling boil (you will see big bubbles) and then let the mixture boil for 1 minute

I tried to capture the bubbles-

Remove the mixture from heat.  Stir in the peanut butter and the vanilla until smooth.  Then, stir in the oats.


Line your cookie sheets with wax paper, then drop tablespoons of the mixture onto the sheets.  Let cool until set. 

Once the cookies cool, you are left with a chocolate peanut-buttery snack that is hard to resist.  They may not be the prettiest looking cookies ever, but they sure taste good!

Tri-Colored Strawberries

7 Jul

What’s more fun than chocolate dipped strawberries?  White chocolate dipped strawberries with blue sugar!  It’s an irresistible combination.

Tri-Colored Strawberries

Ingredients
Strawberries (about one pint)
2/3 cup of white chocolate chips
Blue sparkling sugar

Directions
Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave them in 20 second increments, stirring between each one so you don’t burn the chocolate.

Dip the strawberries in the chocolate, making sure to leave part of the strawberry uncovered. 

Dip the bottom of each strawberry in blue sugar, making sure to not cover all the white.  You want all three colors- red, white, and blue, to show!

Place the strawberries on a wax paper covered baking sheet, and put them in the fridge until the chocolate sets.

And that’s all there is to it!  In no time you’ll have patriotic strawberries that taste amazing. You can even pretend it’s a healthy dessert since strawberries are good for you, right? :)

Pretzel Rod Sparklers

7 Jul

As promised, here is another 4th of July dessert recipe.  These sparkler pretzels are simple but fun and would make a perfect addition to any summer BBQ!

Pretzel Rod Sparklers

Ingredients
22 pretzel rods
6 .24 oz packets of Pop Rocks
2/3 cup of chocolate chips

Place your chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, then microwave until melted.  Heat in 20 second increments, stirring between each one.  Be careful not to burn the chocolate!

Dip your pretzel rods into the chocolate, coating the top of the pretzel.  Then, sprinkle pop rocks on the coated end, pressing them into the chocolate gently if need be.

Stand your sparkler rods upright in a cup or mug, then place them in the fridge until the chocolate has set. 



When you eat them, the pop rocks sparkle and pop- it’s like fireworks in your mouth!  And the saltiness of the pretzel is perfect with the chocolate.   For such a simple dessert, these really deliver!

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