Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Where I've Been & A Big Annoucement!

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You may have been wondering where I have been for the last few weeks/months. Well, on top of the general end of the year teaching craziness Justin and I are very excited to announce that we are expecting! Baby Tobin will hopefully be making a debut in early October!

Given our not so secret love of all things Disney we went with a Disney themed pregnancy announcement a few weeks ago on social media. We had the ears made at the Magic Kingdom over Spring Break and spent a very fun and very hot afternoon staging pictures of the ears in front of the castle.

Since this is a blog that centers around baking and cooking, I also had to make a little baking themed announcement too. It may seem silly but I have been back in the kitchen lately and not being able to lick the spoon/bowl due to raw eggs has been pure torture. (I know the risk is minimal but I am attempting to be better safe than sorry.)

Please keep us and Baby Tobin in your thoughts and prayers over the next few months and hopefully I should be back to a regular baking and blogging schedule soon!

Want to make the delicious looking Buttermilk Cupcake Bites in the photo above? Check out the recipe!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Brunch Celebration With Snack Pack Pudding Cups

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

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Easter in my family means early morning mass, brunch, bright colors and lots of desserts. This year I combined all of our traditions into an easy Easter morning brunch complete with adorable make your Easter Pudding Cups for everyone to enjoy along with their breakfast. 

When we were younger we would go to 10:30 mass and then head right over to my grandparents' beach club for a huge family brunch with all the cousins. As the years went by that brunch somehow kept getting pushed back until it is now at 1:30 in the afternoon. We still call it brunch, but it is clearly a lunch. 

Over the last few years we started to attend Easter Sunday Sunrise Mass which left us with the dilemma of being starving at 8:30 in the morning when it was over but knowing we had a huge lunch/brunch to attend later in the afternoon. 

The very first year we found ourselves in this predicament my Uncle Bob threw together some pancakes and we all devoured them with a side of Easter candy. Not the most traditional of breakfasts but my family refuses to eat a meal that doesn't have dessert. 

So this year, I am putting together a little brunch that solves our "Sunrise Mass is over but lunch isn't for another five hours" problem. 

This brunch will definitely wake you up with it's bright colors, sparkly silverware and neon Easter grass. I paired pancakes with white chocolate dipped fruit and copious amounts of Easter sprinkles. 

For our breakfast desserts, I set up an Easter Pudding Cup Bar with both Chocolate and Vanilla Super Snack packs and an assortment of mix ins so that everyone could make their own personalized treat. I included:
  • Sprinkles
  • White Chocolate Dipped Honey Maid Graham Crackers
  • Malted Milk Easter Eggs 
  • Chocolate Easter Eggs
  • White Chocolate Chips
  • Toffee Bits
  • White Chocolate Dipped Fruit
  • Shredded Coconut (dyed green)
  • Mini Easter Bunny Cakes (see below for recipe)

The mix ins allowed for all sorts of pudding cup creations but some of my favorites used the shredded coconut for grass with a cute arrangement of Easter eggs on them as well as the ones topped with the Mini Easter Bunny Cakes.

I made the mini bunny cakes using a boxed yellow cake mix in this Bunny Silicone Treat Mold . Make sure to spray the mold with Pam to make them easier to get out. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes. I then put the baked cakes in the freezer for a few minutes to make them easier to dip. 

I dipped the bunny cakes in white chocolate and then let them set. I used food coloring markers to draw on their faces. To help them stay upright in the pudding cups, I stuck a toothpick in to the bottom of each bunny and then placed it on top of the shredded coconut. 

I found the Super Snack Pack pudding cups and everything else I needed for the brunch at my local Walmart and used a lot of my own stash of Easter decorations for the decor. I love that the pudding cups will allow my family to satisfy their need for dessert without breaking into their foot tall solid chocolate Easter bunnies. Also, each Super Snack Pack has the same amount of calcium as an 8 oz glass of milk which totally makes them appropriate for brunch right?

What are your family's Easter traditions? 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Game Day Swiss Cheese Bacon Dip

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

When it comes to watching sports, my family can be pretty intense. We are serious about our favorite college team and we almost as serious about our game watch food. I've posted about a lot of dips that we enjoy in our household and yet somehow I have neglected to post our family's ultimate game day party dip: Swiss Cheese Bacon Dip. And since our team has actually made it to the playoffs in basketball this year, we will hopefully be making this appetizer a few more times this season.

Yes, we eat a lot of cheese dip in my extended family. Yes they are all beloved and unique. But this one is special- and not just because it has the word bacon in it. I don't even normally like bacon. As in I have never eaten a piece of bacon by itself before and I don't ever plan to. But this dip? I'm obsessed with it. It is actually the only way I have ever eaten bacon and I am totally OK with that.

My family is fanatical about our college alma mater and if you read this blog you are probably tired of me telling stories about my leprechaun loving family's antics while watching football and basketball so I am going to keep this post focused on the food. The cheesy, bacony, hot and gooey food.

It's a given that when the game watch hostess assigns everyone their dishes someone will be making this. The first question my mom and sister ask when I invite them over to watch a game is "Who's making the Swiss Cheese Bacon Dip?" You'd think I am embellishing this for the sake of a post but if you know my family, you know I'm not. It only takes minutes to make but I guarantee it will be the star of any game watch party you bring it too.

Bacon Dip can be paired with any kind of chip, cracker or even veggie if you are into dipping your carrots and celery into hot, bacon filled cheese. Sometimes we top with with crushed crackers and I think my aunt may even top it with more bacon. Recently I grabbed some White Cheddar Cheez-It Grooves at Walmart and they were just thing to scoop up the cheesy goodness that is this dip.

Swiss Cheese Bacon Dip

  • 8oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise 
  • 4oz. shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
  • 8 pieces of cooked bacon, crumbled
1.) Mix all the ingredients together and spread into a shallow baking dish. I used a pie dish. 

2.) Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.

3.) Serve with Cheez-Its, crackers, chips or veggies for the perfect game day treat!

Are you as obsessed with cheese as my family is? Right now Cheez-It is hosting the Most Valuable Cheese Contest through April 2015. You can vote on you favorite flavors/varieties of Cheez-It flavors and play games for a chance to win $10,000. Be sure to check it out!

Monday, March 16, 2015

M&M's® Crispy Treats

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

In high school, our cafeteria had an amazing selection of snacks and candy. If I had an extra .50 cents I use to love picking myself out a treat to save for before swim practice after school. One of my favorite things to get were M&M's® Crispy. Back then they came in a bright blue bag and I loved how crunchy and airy they were. I was devastated when they were discontinued so you can imagine my excitement when I walked into CVS last week and saw that they had been brought back in all their crispy glory.

I'm now a teacher at my former high school and I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see our cafeteria carrying M&M's® Crispy once again in their new, light green bag. The delicious milk chocolate with a crispy rice center with only 180 calories per serving still makes for perfect afternoon snack (teachers need snacks too). While I love the single serving bags, I am thrilled that they now come in larger sized bags too so that I can easily use them for baking at home.

Since M&M's® Crispy bring back all kinds of nostalgia for me it would make sense that I should use them one the most nostalgic childhood desserts- Rice Crispy Treats. These are just your standard rice cereal treats adjusted to make room for lots of colorful, crunchy M&M's®. As if these treats weren't crispy enough, the addition M&M's® take them over the top with their chocolate and crispy centers.

These take only minutes to make and I for one would be happy to find one in my lunch bag or waiting for me at home when I got back from school. (hint, hint husband) You can add more or less M&M's® Crispy depending on your tastes but I found a cup to be the perfect amount.

M&M's® Crispy Treats

  • 10oz bag of mini marshmallows
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 5 cups of crispy rice cereal
  • 1 cup of M&M's® Crispy
1.) Place the marshmallows and butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes and then remove and quickly stir. Microwave for another minute and stir again.

2.) Slowly combine rice cereal into marshmallow mixtures. 

3.) Once combined stir in the M&M's® Crispy. Don't stir them too much or the colors of the shells will start to run.

4.) Using a spatula lightly sprayed in cooking spray, press the mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 pan. 

5.) Let cool completely and then cut and serve. They can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap for an on the go treat or stored together in an air tight container. 

Right now you can save $1 when you purchase M&M's® Crispy at CVS. Be sure to print out this coupon and save! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Girls' Day Brunch {Easy Breakfast Ideas With Pepperidge Farms & Florida OJ}

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

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The weather in Florida is what my mom would call "Chamber of Commerce weather" : breezy, sunny and 70 degrees. It is the perfect temperature to sit outside and enjoy a meal and relax with friends. This past weekend I put together a fun and easy Girl's Day Brunch using a few easy breakfast ideas from Pepperidge Farms.

This was a brunch just for the girls so I kept it light. The men usually require heartier dishes like eggs, sausage and bacon but when it's just us ladies I keep it simple. I had a Mimosa Bar with Florida Orange Juice, lots of sweet rolls and pastries as well as fresh fruit cups and Greek yogurt. Everything was easy to make ahead or pop in the oven right before everyone showed up which left me plenty of time to set up an fun and bright tablescape on the back porch.

I went with hot pinks and oranges as my color scheme to match the OJ and keep things cheerful. I was inspired by plastic silverware display while I was food shopping at Walmart that had paired the pink and orange together and I just went with it. Believe it or not, every single part of the table (napkins, cups, plates, silverware, straws and tablecloth) were all purchased in Walmart's party section which made this set up not just fun but very affordable too.

For my Mimosa Bar I used disposable plastic champagne and wine glasses. I wash and reuse them when I can but if they get dropped or thrown away it isn't the end of the world. I pre made some frozen fruit skewers using blueberries and raspberries which helped keep our drinks cold and were also an adorable garnish. It was so nice to have everything all set up outside so we didn't have to keep going into the house to replenish our drinks.

For food I served:
  • Pepperidge Farms Apple Cinnamon Sweet Rolls
  • Pepperidge Farms Pecan Caramel Sweet Rolls
  • Pepperidge Farms Chocolate Filled Crescent Rolls
  • Fresh Fruit Cups
  • Toppings like Greek yogurt, granola and an orange glaze (recipe below)

I prepared the sweet rolls and crescent rolls as the package described and made a little orange glaze to top them with. The glaze also went great on top of the fruit cups too. I set up little bowls of the glaze, greek yogurt and granola so that guests could top their fruit or make parfaits if they preferred. It was nice to let everyone customize things as they liked. 

I stacked the sweet rolls on cake plates for easy access on the table and used a three tiered dessert stand for the crescent rolls. I added some baby mandarin oranges in my decorations to add a little more color and to go with the theme. I placed pink and orange plastic silverware in what my mom refers to as spooners (I think this term only applies if they are antiques right?) so that everyone could reach them. 

Everything was beyond amazing and I love how cheerful and fun everything turned out. I also love that I didn't actually have to "make" anything just back up the pastries and mix up the glaze. What is your favorite thing to serve at a girls' day brunch?

Orange Juice Glaze
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Florida orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)
Whisk together all the ingredients until smooth and then drizzle on warm pastries or serve table side in a small bowl. 

Be sure to store any leftovers in the fridge. Enjoy! 

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.

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