Monday, January 26, 2015

20+ Super Cheesy Party Dips

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Cheese dips pretty much make my life. I would much rather fill up on dips at a party then eat an actual meal and cheese dips are the end all be all of the dip world. Here are some of my favorite uber cheesy party dips!

Many of these recipes and photos are not my own. If you would like to see, pin or share a specific recipe please click the image to go to the original site. If you want to pin the whole collection then please pin the collage image above!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Stove Top Mac & Cheese With A Crunchy Goldfish Cracker Topping

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

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I have always been a huge fan of Goldfish crackers as an easy snack but last summer I went to a restaurant that made me completely reconsider my use of theses delicious crackers. When we were in Denver after my family reunion, Justin and I had dinner at a place called D Bar Denver. While it is famous for its dessert options we were also quite impressed with its dinner selection too. My favorite part of the meal? My Mac & Cheese topped with what the menu referred to as "crushed cheese snack crackers". And so the idea of Goldfish cracker topped Mac & Cheese entered my life. 

Originally I wanted to recreate this recipe using boxed or packaged mac & cheese but Justin was adamant that an idea this delicious needed to be done with real, homemade mac. I went with a basic stove top mac & cheese recipe using large elbow noodles but you can easily switch it up with a different shaped pasta and/or variety of cheese. I think that we will be using a white Vermont cheddar next time and maybe topping it with one of the flavor blasted Goldfish crackers instead of the traditional Cheddar.

I served my mac & cheese in individual ramekins which are perfect for adults and kids alike to enjoy at any party or get together. I also love the idea of serving these at a game watch and letting guests top with their own favorite Goldfish cracker flavor. 

I paired our mac & cheese with a side salad for dinner but it could be perfect on its own as a snack or small meal too. Right now, the large Goldfish cracker cartons are on Rollback at Walmart for $5.98 so be sure and stock up with they are on sale.

Stove Top Mac & Cheese With A Crunchy Goldfish Cracker Topping
  • 1 pound of pasta- I used large elbows
  • 1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 2 cups of milk ( I used 2% and it was still very creamy)
  • 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or any cheese you prefer)
  • 1-2 cups Goldfish crackers, crushed
1.) Cook pasta according to directions, drain and set aside.

2.) While pasta is cooking, melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until completely smooth.

3.) Slowly pour in milk and stir until mixture thickens and starts to bubble. 

4.) Stir in cheese until melted.

5.) Add drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to coat the pasta completely. 

6.) Scoop pasta into individual ramekins or into one large oven safe baking dish. Top with crushed Goldfish crackers. Place ramekins or baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees for five minutes to give the topping an added crunch. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Connect with Goldfish Crackers on Twitter at @GoldfishSmiles or by visiting their Facebook page.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Spaghetti With Creamy Broccoli Pesto

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and PEOPLE® and All You® but all my opinions are my own. #PMedia #NewYearMeTime

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2015 is in full swing and I am slowly trying to get myself back on a schedule after the craziness and excitement of the holidays. Every year I try to set simple goals instead of resolutions and this year. as always, I am trying to eat better and take better care of myself. A huge part of doing this is setting aside some time for myself. When Justin is on shift I tend to rush around running errands and getting things done and I usually end up grabbing take out or heating something up from the freezer. In 2015,  my goal is to take 30 minutes for myself each evening to relax and recharge and to cook myself a homemade meal on nights when Justin works.

One of the difficulties I always face when cooking for just myself is that most recipes I use are way too much for one person. So I decided to grab some magazines for inspiration and look for recipes that could easily be adapted for single servings. During my last Walmart trip, I grabbed the latest issues of People and All You and when Justin went to work last weekend, I grabbed a glass of sparkling water and my hot pink sticky page markers and got to work.

All You was filled with tons of recipes that could be made quickly and easily for one person so I had a hard time choosing where to start. I knew our upcoming work week would be crazy so I settled on something that I could make myself a single serving of and then freeze the rest for later in the week. Anyone who knows me will be shocked to learn that Broccoli Pesto was my first choice.

It's not that I am against eating vegetables, I just don't happen to be the biggest fan of them and broccoli is usually at the top of my "do not eat list". But since my main issue with broccoli is the texture (little trees freak anyone else out?), I figured that this creamy pesto would be a perfect way to sneak some veggies into my meal without having to eat entire pieces of it. I love how creamy this sauce was and I almost couldn't even taste the broccoli.

This recipe was already super easy but I made a few changes to make it even simpler. Instead of cooking my own broccoli, I went with a steam in the bag variety. With all the New Years sales, I was able to find a great deal on an organic frozen variety. I also used jarred minced garlic because when Justin isn't home, I don't have my sous chef so I try to use the minimum number of steps I can when cooking. I love that I was able to make myself a single serving of pasta to toss with the pesto because it eliminated wasted leftovers and kept my portion size under control. I froze some of remaining pesto into single servings and one serving for two so Justin and I could have an easy weeknight dinner.

Looking for some me time for yourself? Be sure to check out Walmart's great selection of magazines filled with all kinds of inspiration for new dinner options, organization tips, home decor ideas and more for the New Year. Right now you can save $1 on ONE (1) PEOPLE®, InStyle®, PEOPLE StyleWatch®, All You®, or Real Simple® magazine. The Walmart digital coupon is available 1/14/15-2/16/15 (while supplies last). Be sure to visit and print out the coupon.

Creamy Broccoli Pesto  adapted All You Magazine
  • 1 pound chopped broccoli (I used frozen steam in the bag but you could use fresh)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese 
  • salt and pepper to taste
1.) Steam broccoli in bag according to the directions on the package. If using fresh broccoli, be sure to cook it before hand.

2.) In a food processor, combine cooked broccoli, olive oil and garlic. Process until smooth. 

3.) In a large bowl, combine broccoli mixture, cream and parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4.) Boil a single serving of pasta.* Drain and reserve some of the pasta water. In a small saucepan on low heat, toss the cooked spaghetti with 1/4 cup pesto mixture using reserved pasta water to loosen the pesto to your desired consistency. Serve immediately and top with additional parmesan cheese.

I froze the remaining pesto in single serving containers so I could make myself a quick and easy single serving of pasta any night of the week. 

*This recipe makes enough to toss a pound of spaghetti however I adapted it to serve just one but cooking a single serving of pasta. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Love Lunch In With Campbell's Slow Kettle Soups

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Being a teacher means that lunch is usually a hurried meal eaten in less than twenty minutes between making copies and helping my homeroom students find their textbooks. So when I am home on the weekends or over a school break, I love to take time for myself and sit down and enjoy a good meal for lunch. Being that it is my time off, I like to make things that are relatively easy and don't require a ton of clean up. Lately, that has been Campbell's Slow Kettle Soups

Soup is one of my favorite comfort foods. I love how hearty and filling it can be while also having the simplicity of a one pot meal. Usually I eat my soup on its own with a side of bread or crackers but depending on my mood I also enjoy it with a sandwich or salad. There is something about a grilled cheese and tomato soup that make my thirty year old self feel like a little kid getting to have a major treat. 

Campbell's Slow Kettle Soups are perfect for relaxing days in because they can easily be heated up on the stove while I throw together a little salad or make a sandwich. I feel like soup is best enjoyed when it is served in something fun so I often serve it in big mugs so we can be cozy on the couch while we eat. Justin and I have a set of his grandmother's old original Campbell's Soup mugs and we have  a little tradition of having soup in them when the weather gets colder. 

The work week can be crazy busy so even though we love eating out sometimes it is nice to just stay in and eat at home. Eating lunch in is also a huge plus for our budget too. I was pretty excited to find Campbell's Slow Kettle Soups on Rollback this week at my local Walmart. I paired the sale with the .75 cents off coupon below and was able to stock up on soups at a great price.

These soups take Campbell's to a whole new level with hearty ingredients and rich flavors. They are their best when they are heated up on the stove but in a pinch they can be microwaved using the directions on the package. That means I may just be able to treat myself to some at work next semester. I might not get to enjoy them out of a cute mug but at least I will get to take a little break for myself in an otherwise crazy work week. What are your favorite ways to enjoy lunch in or at work? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Quaker® Oatmeal Squares Snack Mix

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In college my friends and I had a slight obsession with Quaker® Oatmeal Squares. It really intensified when we moved off campus senior year. I don't know what it was but for some reason this often seemed to be the only thing we had in our pantry besides boxed mac & cheese. We would eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even a late night snack after a night out. 

When someone would question our decision to eat Quaker® Oatmeal Squares at odd hours my friend Kath would always say "Whole Grains" as if that was the answer to any question. In fact even though I hadn't purchased them in a while I could still see the front of the box with the wording about whole grains clear as day. 

Now that I am out of college, I still eat cereal for meals/snacks other than breakfast. With my job as a teacher, I am always on the go and feel like I am always trying to find snacks that are easy to make and pack but fill me up too. Recently I have been making a Quaker® Oatmeal Squares Snack Mix that I am in love with. 

It only has four ingredients, all of which can be easily found at your local Walmart: Brown Sugar Quaker® Oatmeal Squares, air popped popcorn, dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries. It is the perfect mix of crunchy and chewy, sweet and salty. I have been making it for a snack for myself but recently I put some out at party with family and friends and my mom loved it so much she took home all the left overs and then called the next day asking for more. 

It travels easily, fills me up and satisfies all my different cravings at once. It can easily be modified depending on what you have on hand or what Quaker products are your personal favorites. I used the Brown Sugar Quaker® Oatmeal Squares but you could switch it up and use Quaker® Real Medleys®, Quaker® Simply Granola, Quaker® Life, or any other variety of Quaker® products too.

Oatmeal Squares Snack Mix
  • 2-3 cups of Brown Sugar Quaker® Oatmeal Squares
  • 2 cups of air popped popcorn (you can add a little salt if you like but I skipped the butter)
  • 1 cup of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries
Mix all the ingrediants together in a large bowl. Store in individual serving plastic bags or in a large air tight container. Best if eaten in a few days of making it. 


Disney Planes On Rollback At Walmart

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Looking for last minute holiday gift ideas? Delight the little ones in
your life with Disney Planes items now on Rollback at Walmart! All
items listed below are on rollback through the holiday season!
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Disney Planes Flight to the Finish Speedway ($24.97)
Disney Planes: Fire & Rescue Die-Cast Vehicles, 3-Pack ($14.97)
Disney Planes: Fire & Rescue Deluxe Talking Vehicle Assortment ($19.97)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Baked Brie With A Spiced Rum Pecan Glaze {Holiday Party Cheese Display}

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

I would like to think that I am pretty experienced when it comes to throwing parties. Justin and I love to entertain and ever since we have been engaged we have thrown an annual holiday party and big end of summer BBQ. In early years our parties were pretty basic. Chips and salsa, burgers and hot dogs, maybe a veggie tray if we were feeling crazy. As the years have gone on, we have continually felt the need to step it up as we get older. Better food, classier decorations, a wider selection of drinks were all on the menu this year.

Now that we are 30 and basically adults, I wanted to take our food, especially our appetizers, to a whole new level this year. Cheese is always the star of the party in our family so I decided to go with a cheese display as the focal point of the appetizers. It turned out perfectly- easy, classy and a huge hit with family and friends.

For the display I served:
  • An assortment of Town House crackers
  • Baked Brie with a Spiced Rum Pecan Glaze- recipe below
  • Cheesy Chipotle Dip- recipe here
  • 4 cheeses- two varieties of goat cheese and two harder cheeses
  • Nuts- pistachios, cashews, almonds, salt & pepper peanuts and mixed nuts
  • Grapes and Apple slices

Even with over 30 guests this display fed everyone easily. The variety of crackers was great because it allowed people to pair the various cheese and dips with different textures and flavors depending on their preferences. I loved that all I had to do for most of the display was set out the items a few minutes before the party. 

To save time and stress, I actually pre-set up the entire table minus the refrigerated items and pre-made the dip and brie earlier in the day. 30 minutes before guests arrived I put the dip and the brie in the oven so that they would be the perfect temperature when every got there. The dips went quickly but since it wasn't too hot it was nice to be able to leave out the cheeses, crackers, nuts and fruit so that people could snack on them even after dinner was served. 

Pretty much everything you see tablescape wise in these photos was purchased at Target either this year or during last year's after Christmas clearance sale. The hanging sign was a DIY kit that was actually surprisingly easy to make and the plates, paper placemats and food labels were all found in the holiday entertaining section. I got the little clear tapas plates as a nod to the mini cheese plates we had at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival this year and I love how cute they looked when guests made their own little plates. 

Justin and I consider ourselves to be "tapas" people and often eat our own mini versions of this on our at home date nights so the cheese display was a natural, larger extension of that (minus the dip and baked brie of course). I love how simple yet so filling it all is and I really feel like it added a nice touch to this year's party. And if my guests have anything to say about it, I imagine it will make an appearance at future parties as well. 

My favorite thing on the display had to be the baked brie. I love how easy it is to prepare when it looks like something complicated. You can adjust the ratios depending on how you like your brie but I try to stick with a 3-2-1 ratio of brown sugar to pecans to rum. Personally I prefer the traditional, butter Town House crackers with it but a lot of our guests paired it with the pretzel chips this year. 

What are your favorite holiday appetizers to serve each year? Do you have tried and true family favorites or do you mix it up? I would love some new ideas so be sure to share in the comments!

Baked Brie With A Spiced Rum Pecan Glaze

  • Small wheel of brie cheese
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon spiced rum
  • Town House crackers to serve it with
1.) Remove the brie from the wrapping and using a sharp knife shave off some of the rind on the top. This makes the cheese easier to spread once it is heated.

2.) In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, pecans and rum. 

3.) Place brie in a small baking dish or brie baker if you have one. Top with the mixture.

4.) Bake covered for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes or until sides are bubbling and cheese looks melted. 

5.) Serve warm with crackers. Be careful about serving this too soon, the sugar mixture can get very hot so be careful. 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Easy Crock Pot Christmas Candy & A Holiday Dessert Party {Oatmeal Recipes For The Season}

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Quaker. All opinions are mine alone. #QuakerUp #MyOatsCreation #CollectiveBias

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When I think of food during the holidays, I don't think about turkey or stuffing or sweet potato casserole. For me, the best holiday food memories center around desserts. For our annual Christmas party, I always try to come up with new and different dessert recipes and this year I decided to have a "trial run" dessert party to test out a few oatmeal recipes I wanted to serve.

A few family and friends were happy to help me out and be taste testers and give their suggestions on the set up of the dessert table. Since we were serving a full dinner and lots of appetizers for our upcoming party I knew that the desserts needed to be bite sized because guests tend to like to grab something small right after dinner but then head back as the night goes on for a few more treats. 

I have a few rules when it comes to preparing desserts for parties. It must be easy to make ahead. It needs to be something people can eat while standing around and mingling. And there must be a variety of options for all different tastes. I personally find it hard to serve things like cakes and full pies at large parties and the single serving treats eliminate the need for putting out utensils too. This dessert table meets all of those requirements. 

As will all of my parties, I went with disposable where I could. The tablecloth, napkins, plates and serving cups were all purchased last year at Target during their after Christmas clearance. Each year I go bright and early on the 26th and stock up for the following year. I literally buy everything down to the cupcake liners for my future party. Going early means I can usually still shop with a theme in mind and as you can see this year's party featured a variation of traditional red and green stripes and chevrons.

I like to add a little height to my dessert displays because it makes it easier for guests to see and reach their dessert options. Individual cups of trail mix let guests snack on the go and then easily throw the cup away when they are done. This eliminates the need for people sticking their hands into things or having to scoop it out of a big bowl which will inevitably lead to trail mix all over my floor. 

This year's dessert table had a few tried and true favorites as well as some new additions. I served:
  • Easy Crock Pot Christmas Candy- recipe below
  • My Mom's Butterscotch Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies- recipe here
  • Buttermilk Cupcake Bites- recipe here
  • Sweet & Salty Quaker Oatmeal Squares Trail Mix- recipe coming soon
  • An assortment of Christmas candy

The Crock Pot Christmas was a huge hit this year and I have been requested to make more for Christmas day dinner as well. It was so easy because unlike a lot of candy recipes where you have to temper the chocolate just right or use a double boiler and risk scalding yourself, all this recipe took as throwing melting chocolate in a mini crock pot, waiting 15 minutes and then stirring in a few ingredients. You can easily modify this based on what you have on hand but my favorite combo is the one in the recipe below: oatmeal, toffee bits and peanuts. Just one of these is filling enough to satisfy even the biggest of sweet tooths. 

Quaker Oats are always a huge part of holiday (and year round) baking in our family and this year's special winter packaging available exclusively at Target was too cute to pass up. It was actually on price cut (varies regionally) and I had a great printable coupon so I was able to stock up for the season at a really good price. Be sure to grab some next time you are out shopping and visit Quaker on Facebook & Pinterest for even more holiday baking inspiration.

Easy Crock Pot Christmas Candy

  • 20-24 oz. melting chocolate or almond bark
  • 1/2 cup of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/2 cup of toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup of salted peanuts 
1.) Chop up chocolate and place in a small crock pot or slow cooker. Let melt on medium for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. 

2.) Once the chocolate is melted stir in the oatmeal, peanuts and toffee. 

3.) Line a mini cupcake tin and using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, scoop the mixture into the liners. 

4.) Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to let the candy harden. Can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

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