Monday, August 11, 2014

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Brownie Bites {Dove Chocolate And Fruit Pairings}

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

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Have you ever had people over for lunch and ended up with a dessert dilemma? I really struggle with what is acceptable to serve for dessert after a light lunch. Being a food blogger (and a dessert person in general) means that I am usually drawn to serving rich, decadent treats whenever I can and no one has ever really complained.  But when lunch is salad, wraps and fruit, it seems a bit much to then serve your guests a piece of chocolate fudge cake afterwards. I decided to go with a chocolate and fruit pairing to keep things light and these Dark Chocolate Cranberry Brownie Bites made with Dove® Fruit - Whole Cranberries were the perfect post lunch dessert.

I am lucky enough to still be friends with a group of ladies that I grew up with. We went to preschool and grade school and even high school together. Our mothers have always been friends and no matter where our lives have taken us, somehow we have all ended up back in our hometown. This summer since many of us are teachers and a few are nurses with week days off due to their crazy schedules we decided to make an effort to get together for lunch and shopping on a regular basis. 

Our first few meet ups found us spending way too long sitting at lunch gossiping and way too much money (or at least in our husbands' opinions) on clothes and shoes. After a few such afternoons, my friend Liz came up with the great idea to host lunch at her house so we could save ourselves from the glares of waitresses ready for us to give up our tables and our wallets from the effects of group shopping. 

Turns out it was a good thing we didn't go to a restaurant because a lunch that started at noon ended at 7pm when one of our husbands called looking for dinner. Turns out after almost 30 years as friends, we still had plenty to talk about. 

Last week it was my turn to host lunch which is what brought on my above mentioned dessert dilemma. When I saw these Dove® Fruit - Whole Cranberries at Sam's Club I knew I would be using them in some type of dessert recipe to serve the girls. These brownies have to be the easiest scratch brownie recipe ever and the dark chocolate is a great way to get in some antioxidants. Add in some Dove® Fruit - Whole Cranberries and you have a chewy, sweet and tart way to add some punch to the basic brownie mix. I won't name names but more than one of my girlfriends went back for seconds (and maybe thirds) of these during our post lunch gossip session.

Dove® Fruit - Whole Cranberries can be found at Sam's Clubs but they do have limited availability so be sure to visit Sam's Website to check to see if your local store carries them. Dove® Fruit is real fruit dipped in dark chocolate so it makes a much better for you snack than grabbing for your standard candy bar and these brownie bites make portion control that much easier too. Dove® is also releasing a whole cherry version later this year which will be perfect for the upcoming Fall baking season. 

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Brownie Bites
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of Dove® Fruit Whole Cranberries
  • powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
1.) In a large bowl combine sugar, flour and cocoa powder.

2.) Stir in melted butter until completely combined.

3.) Stir in eggs and then fold in Dove® Fruit Whole Cranberries.

4.) Line a mini cupcake pan and using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop fill each liner with batter.

5.) Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minute or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

6.) Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Colby Jack Cheese Dip {New Printable Kraft Coupons}

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

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As we get ready for our annual end of summer BBQ, I am keeping two things in mind: coming up with delicious new recipes our friends will enjoy and keeping things under budget. Justin and I love entertaining but if we aren't careful things end up costing way more than we planned for. Since I refuse to sacrifice taste or quality when it comes to food for our parties, I usually try to use couponing to help keep our costs down.

Our family loves a good cheese dip. In fact our family and friends love cheese in any way we could possibly serve it to them. I usually end up making a tried and true family favorite, Swiss Cheese Bread Dip but this year I wanted to come up with something a little different. And so Colby Jack Cheese Dip was born.

Not only does this dish satisfy any cheese craving you could possibly have but it is ridiculously easy to make. It can easily be made ahead of time (or even the night before) and stored in the fridge ready to bake whenever your guests arrive.

I think that pretty much anything would taste good dipped in this but I went with crackers, pretzel chips, celery and carrots as my dipping tools. You can always bake this in a bread bowl if you prefer that approach but I decided to keep it low key and bake it in an oven safe dish.

Trying to keep your entertaining under budget? Kraft has some amazing printable coupons available right now to help you save on tons of great products. I was able to save $1.75 at Walmart using coupons for each of the three ingredients needed for this recipe.

As always with printable coupons, keep in mind that they can run out fast so make sure to print the ones you want now before they run out.

Colby Jack Cheese Dip
  • 8 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese (softened)
  • 1 cup of Kraft Light Mayo
  • 2 cups Kraft Colby & Monterey Jack Shredded Cheese
1.) In a large bowl, mix all three ingredients together until completely combined. 

2.) Place mixture in an oven safe bowl or a bread bowl if you prefer. Bake covered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then uncover and bake another 15 minutes until dip is bubbling at the sides and the top is golden brown. 

3.) Let cool for 5 minutes before serving with crackers and vegetables for dipping. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Parmesan Pesto Chicken Roll Ups {Traditional Family Favorites}

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

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When I first started dating my husband 10 years ago, I couldn't cook to save my life. My recipe repertoire was made up of buttered noodles, grilled cheese and peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly). I also didn't eat "red sauce". Justin comes from an Italian family so not being able to cook and not eating red sauce made me pretty much unmarriable.

To this day he still says that he considered my lack of liking red sauce as my biggest flaw in our early relationship. Thankfully over the last 10 years, I have not only learned to cook but I have also learned to enjoy pasta sauce as well.

Usually I am the one who cooks in our house especially during the summer when I am off of work. But with teacher workdays starting in 48 hours, Justin is going to be helping out with family dinners as I deal with usual back to school stress. And if you knew my husband you'd know that Justin's meals almost always involve a sauce.

We always have a few jars of Classico pasta sauce in our pantry and I usually have a jar or two of Classico pesto on hand as well. Between pasta dishes, noodles, and make your own pizza night it goes pretty fast at our house. Walmart always has it for a great price so it's a budget friendly ingredient to have on hand.

Justin and I love meals that recreate some of our restaurant favorites and these Parmesan Pesto Chicken Roll Ups made us feel like we were eating at our favorite Italian restaurant without actually having to leave the house. With a few pre-made, store bought ingredients and a couple easy steps you can have a filling and delicious family meal.

We served ours with a spinach salad and garlic toast but the chicken can just as easily be served over a bed of pasta or risotto. The Parmesan in the pasta sauce really complimented the cheeses we used in our filing and the panko parmesan bread crumb topping gave the whole dish a little texture without us having to bread each chicken breast.

Parmesan Pesto Chicken Roll Ups

  • 4 thinly sliced chicken cutlets
  • 15 oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan for the filling
  • 2 tablespoons Classico pesto
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese for the filling
  • 1 jar of Classico Family Favorites Parmesan & Romano Pasta Sauce
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (for the topping)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (for the topping)
  • 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese (for the topping)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
1.) Coat the bottom of a small baking dish with a layer of the Classico Pasta Sauce. You just want enough to cover the entire bottom of the pan. 

2.) In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, 1/3 cup parmesan, pesto, and 1/4 cup mozzarella. Add salt and pepper to your preference. 

3.) Spoon a layer of the mixture on each chicken cutlet and gently roll up the chicken with the filling inside. 

4.) Place each rolled chicken breast in the pan on top of the pasta sauce. 

5.) Mix together your panko bread crumbs and the 1/4 cup grated parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste. 

6.) Top each roll up with a heaping spoonful of pasta sauce. Then sprinkle each with a 1/4 cup of the remaining mozzarella and top with 1/4 of the panko parmesan mixture. 

7.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your chicken you may need to bake it for longer to make sure that the chicken is cooked all the way through. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Frozen Cheesecake Cool Whip Sandwiches {Quick & Easy Snack For Back To School}

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

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One week from today I will be getting ready to head back to work. (Can you tell I never want the summer to end?) And even though I am in denial,  I am already planning ahead for  my upcoming, hectic work schedule. Without fail, when I get home everyday around 4:00 I am always looking for an afternoon snack. During the summer I am able to take my time making something or I can always just head to the store since my days are pretty flexible. But during the school year, I need to have some quick and easy snacks around so that I can grab something to eat quickly before heading off to an evening meeting or running errands.

Just like most people, I usually end up snacking on a granola bar, some apple slices or maybe some trail mix or cheese and crackers. But every now and then I am looking for something a little sweeter to snack on. And even though we will be back in school in August, the weather will still be in the high 80's and 90's most days, so a cool and refreshing sweet treat is exactly what I will be looking for.

These Frozen Cheesecake Cool Whip Sandwiches are so easy to make a head of time and stick in the freezer for a single serving treat. They only have three main ingredients: Cool Whip, Jell-O pudding mix, and graham crackers. What I really love is not only are they easy to make but they are easy to customize too. With all the different flavors of Jello-Pudding mix out there you could make a different flavor every week for the first few months of school.

I jazzed mine up with some sprinkles and mini chocolate chips but you could also add chopped nuts, shredded coconut, toffee bits, or any other type of toppings you want. I went with the regular versions of Cool Whip and Jell-O but you can always go with a sugar free or lite version too depending on your personal needs and preferences.

While we enjoyed most of these over the last week of sweltering hot Florida summer temperatures, I have a few stashed away in tupperware in the freezer for that first week of school. After a day of teaching with temperatures outside of 85+ degrees, I am really going to need to walk in the house, kick down the air conditioner, kick off my 5 inch heels (I am a glutton for punishment I know), and grab one of these frozen dreams to cool off and calm down. And after a few minutes of relaxing with my after school treat, then maybe I will have enough energy to re-organize our home office. Or maybe I will grade papers in my pj's and call it a day.

Frozen Cheesecake Cool Whip Sandwiches

  • One tub of Cool Whip
  • 1 package of Cheesecake Jell-O Instant Pudding Mix
  • 12 graham crackers, broken in half (so 24 squares total)
1.) In a large bowl, mix together Cool Whip and Jell-O pudding mix. Make sure that your Cool Whip is completely dethawed if you store it in the freezer or else it will be difficult to mix. 

2.) Using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, place a scoop of the mixture on one graham cracker square and then sandwich with another square. 

3.) If desired, sprinkle the sides with mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, chopped nuts or anything you like. 

4.) Place in an airtight container and freeze for at least six hours before enjoying. 

5.) Should be stored frozen in an air tight container or you could wrap them individually in cling wrap and freeze for easy single servings. 

I purchased my Cool Whip and Jell-O pudding mixes at Walmart and right now you can save $1 when you buy ONE (1) tub of COOL WHIP Topping (any size) and TWO (2) boxes of JELL-O Pudding Mix. Coupon is only available while supplies last so be sure and print it out today!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Buttermilk Cupcake Bites

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I am going to say something no teacher ever wants to say or hear. Summer is coming to an end. And while I love my job, I am not quite ready to go back to having to be somewhere before 8am or not being able to spend my days in sundresses and flip flops.

I had big plans to be productive this summer. I was going to reorganize my office, clean out my closet, blog three times a week, pick paint colors for the upstairs hallways and stairwell. Justin and I had started the summer with promises to cook/eat at home 4+ nights a week and go to the gym every morning. My digital classroom was going to be totally set up, I was going to have lesson plans completely done for the first week of school. I am actually laughing out loud as I write this.

As any teacher can tell you, the summer starts with so much promise of productivity. You are going to get on that schedule the craziness of the school year never lets you quite get on board with. You are going to be the most organized, healthy, and tannest version of yourself. Well, at least I did get a nice tan...

I may not have accomplished what I set out to do but I did re-read all five Game of Thrones books. I slept in late and I also got up early a few times only to get myself Starbucks and end up back in bed reading afterwards. I went to the beach; I had a few couples' spa days with Justin. We went to Sea World twice in one week. I sat at a friend's kitchen table with my girlfriends and we talked/gossiped from noon until seven at night when someone's husband called wondering where dinner was.

I spent an insanely relaxing week in the mountains of North Carolina with my family. I went swimming in the rain. I watched thunderstorms roll in over the ocean at a historical 75 year old bar while sipping Pain Killers. I watched all six seasons of Gossip Girl. I baked, cooked, photographed and had fun in the kitchen. I got asked to have recipes/photos featured in Sam's Club. I spent too much money on Lilly Pulitzer and not enough money on school appropriate clothes.

And as the summer draws to a close, I woke up this morning determined to do something constructive with my day. So I sent a few work emails, spent 20 minutes researching an interactive classroom app and then I gave up and pulled out my sprinkles. Because nothing can help me procrastinate reality then bottles full of brightly colored, hardened sugar.

These Buttermilk Cupcake Bites are the perfect mix of motivation and procrastination. They are made using a box mix with a few twists. They don't taste like your run of the mill box mix cupcakes and I have had people ask me for my "from scratch" cupcake mix more than once after having these.

I also love that they aren't topped with traditional frosting. Instead  I dipped them in Candi-Quik coating which after it hardens gives a perfect creamy crunch to the top of the cupcake and gives it the ability to be stacked, stored in a ziploc bag and generally transported without fear of damaging the icing. (Want to more about icing damage in transit phobia? Ask Justin. I have almost pushed him to divorce with my screams of "take that turn slowly, the cupcakes!!!")

Looking to avoid reality? Then look no further than these cupcakes. Now that I have gotten them out of my system maybe I will clean my closet tomorrow. Or maybe Justin and I will go out to Thai for lunch and then walk the beach and savor the last few days of summer we have left. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Buttermilk Cupcake Bites

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix (just the mix)
  • 1 cup of low fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Vanilla Candi-Quik and sprinkles for the tops
1.) With an electric mixer, combine the cake mix, buttermilk, oil and eggs together. 

2.) Line a mini cupcake pan with liners, and fill each one with a tablespoon of the batter. I use a small cookie scoop instead but you can do whatever works for you. 

3.) Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes depending on your oven. 

4.) Once cupcakes have completely cooled, melt the Candi-Quik according to the directions on the package. Dip cupcake tops in the topping. 

5.) Top with sprinkles and let harden. Enjoy and be sure to store in an air tight container. 

While I was not monetarily compensated for this post, I did get a pretty amazing box of mixes from Immaculate Baking company and used the Yellow Cake Mix in this recipeDisclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by Immaculate Baking through Platefull Co-Op.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peach Mango Kool-Aid Granita {#KoolOff With Kool-Aid Fruit Drinks}

I am a member of the #CollectiveBias ® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser #KoolOff

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One of my very vivid summer memories as a child was going to the grocery store with my mom. I guess that we never went with her during the school year because she probably enjoyed going by herself when we were at school so as to avoid the endless stream of can I please have this, I want to eat that, I hate him, and so on (clearly those comments came from my siblings, I was a saint). My mom is nothing if not fair, so we use to have to take turns choosing the cereal, snack bars, and other unnecessary treats she would let us have each week. But I do remember one thing she would let us each pick our own of, Kool-Aid fruit drink packets.

We would feel like we had won the lottery when she would say we could each pick out our OWN personal flavor. Little did we know that they probably cost about .05 cents in 1993. I remember we would agonize forever over which flavor we would get that week. Sometimes there were even limited edition flavors and someone would ALWAYS have to get that one because who knew if it would be there next week. I am also pretty sure that my sister and I would usually influence my four year old brother to pick a flavor that we wanted since I don't think he had much of an opinion at the time.

As soon as we had earned our allowance by helping put the groceries away, we would beg my mom to mix up our Kool-Aid which she happily did because she knew that she could then send us outside to drink it and she could have 5 minutes of peace and quiet.

While I know that my mom made us drink milk or water at meals, Kool-Aid was our go to summer drink treat of choice. There was nothing quite as amazing as a huge plastic cup full of Kool-Aid after a hot afternoon of making a girls only fort out of your swing set and Little Tykes Jungle gym connected by pool towels and maybe even with a garden hose pulled inside to spray intruders with.

As an adult, Kool-Aid still reminds me of summer and while I still love drinking it straight out of the bottle I also love getting creative with it too. Justin and I's favorite local restaurant always serves fantastic granita as a palate cleanser between courses (fancy, right?). So I decided to try my hand at making granita at home. The new 96 oz. bottles of Kool-Aid made for the perfect size to make a huge batch and I while I was at Walmart grabbing some I also grabbed some frozen fruit to give our granita a little extra punch.

This Peach Mango Granita was so easy to make and it looks beautiful. With summer coming to a close, we are trying to spend as much time outside as possible and this makes for the perfect refreshing treat to have on it's own after an afternoon in the pool or as a palate cleanser between salads and dinner when we have friends over to have dinner out on the porch (who's fancy now?).

This recipe can be customized with whatever flavor you like. I also have tried it with Watermelon Kool-Aid and just bought the Limited Edition flavor Blackberry to try out next week. Just switch up your frozen fruit to match your flavor or try a complimentary type of fruit to switch it up. Walmart always has the new 96 oz. bottles at the low price of $1.98 but you might even find the limited edition flavors on sale for .98 cents depending on your local store.

Peach Mango Kool-Aid Granita

  • 2 cups of Peach Mango Kool-Aid
  • 1 cup of frozen mango pieces 
1.) Combing Kool-Aid and mango pieces in the blender and blend until completely smooth. 

2.) Pour mixture into a 9x13 pan and freeze for an hour. 

3.) After an hour, use a fork to scrape up the mixture to form a slush. Refreeze for another hour. 

4.) After an hour, repeat the fork scraping and place mixture in freezer for another 4-6 hours. You can leave it overnight if you prefer but you may want to cover it. 

5.) When ready to serve, remove pan from the freezer and use a fork to scrape up the frozen mixture until its a loose, icy slush. Serve immediately and enjoy!

If you live in South Carolina, you are in luck because Jim Dillard, pro fisherman, could be coming to your local Walmart to help promote the new 96oz bottles! There will be product giveaways, t-shirts, games, and more fun activities!

Check it out:
Friday August 8th 5-7pm:
360 Harbison Blvd Columbia, SC WM Supercenter
Saturday August 9th  3-5pm:
1326 Bush River Rd Columbia, SC WM Supercenter
Saturday August 9th 6-8pm: 2401 Augusta Rd West Columbia, SC WM Supercenter

20+ Trail Mix Treats {Wet Nap On The Road & In The Great Outdoors}

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Wet-Nap but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #showusyourmess

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When we were little we knew it was getting close to the day we were leaving on a family road trip vacation because we would see the ingredients for my mom's travel trail mix on the kitchen counter. My mom's traditional trail mix is the tried and true favorite of peanuts, raisins and M&M's. Simple? Yes, addictively delicious even as an adult? You bet.

In the days before we all left on our summer road trip to North Carolina earlier this month, I walked into my mom's kitchen to see the same tell tail bags as I would I as child. My husband had never been on a road trip with us so he had no idea what they meant but even with her children in their late twenties/I guess I am thirty now, Teresita was prepared for people to whine that they were hungry during our ten hours in the car together.

Even though we are adults, we still needed to clean our hands in the car before enjoying our snacks so I swung by Walmart before we left and picked up some Wet-Nap products to keep us clean in the car and then for our days hiking and enjoying the outdoors in North Carolina too. Our family likes to bring snacks with us everywhere so I knew we would need to have plenty on hand.

The trail mix was destroyed well before we went on our hikes half way through the week so we had to improvise with store bought snacks. After getting slightly off course during our leisurely 2 hour hike turned into an intense 3 1/2 hour hike to a waterfall, we were very grateful not only for a little something to eat but also that we had a supply of Wet-Naps to clean our dirty/sweaty hands and faces.

They didn't just leave our hands clean and soft but my brother also thought that the Citrus Scent smelled a little bit like a pina colada which he found very relaxing.

In honor of family road trips everywhere, I have put together a little round up of trail mix inspired treats that can all be enjoyed on your next car trip or family hike. Make sure to click on the individual photos to take you to each specific recipe.

Want to grab some Wet-Nap products for your next family road trip? Make sure to print off your .55 cents off coupon while supplies last to save even more then you do with Walmart's everyday low prices. Wet-Nap can be found in the paper goods aisle and they are now stronger and softer than ever with even more moisturizing aloe so they are perfect for kids and adults of all ages. 

Did you road trip anywhere this summer? Are you planning to? What types of snacks do you like to pack when you travel?

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