Life is weird as you get older. Four months can feel like four days and it becomes harder and harder to connect with friends that you have loved for years. Good ideas and the best of intentions often fall quickly off your radar and before you know it, a year has gone by.
Well, hallelujah for the blog, because it has really motivated us to stay more connected as friends, despite our busy, different lives. And thank you Target dollar spot, for continually inspiring me with seasonal party favors.
Enter Valentine’s Day, or “galentine’s” if you are celebrating with your favorite gal-pals. I mean, who doesn’t want an excuse to get together, eat great food, and talk for hours? Exactly. We all want that. So naturally, we dusted off our Pinterest boards, bought gold flatware, and invited all of our old high school pals that we rarely talk to but love spending time with.
The menu was a collaborative effort full of simple and fun brunch foods. I was particularly excited about the french toast kebabs. This was literally my first pin ever on Pinterest (like years and years ago) and I was dying to finally make these babies. I adapted the Martha Stewart recipe only slightly and added almond and coconut extract to the batter to give the French toast bites a little more pizazz and they turned out great. Definitely try this fun idea for your next brunch gathering!
Another tasty element of the brunch was the Bacon Broccoli Frittata Ashley made. Rather than baking it in a larger pie dish she baked them in muffin tins and they were a perfect single-serving size.
Megan whipped up a classic berry and granola parfait enhanced with some dollar spot embellishments from Target and she used Noosa honey yogurt—oh man, so creamy, so good!
Strawberry orange smoothie rounded out the menu and Ashley made some strawberries and cream “puppy chow” or “muddy buddies”…whatever you call chex cereal doused with deliciousness..for the party favors in cute little muslin bags (ah hem, dollar spot, again).
The decorations were fun and festive. Check out all the fun pieces below:
Our little “Galentine’s gathering” was awesome. We ate way more than we should have and talked way longer than we planned. It’s amazing how you can reconnect and pick right up where you left off with some friends. I love it when those moments happen. They are both fulfilling and rejuvenating. As we sat and caught up on the events of life since we had last connected, I couldn’t help but feel validated and inspired by these ladies. All of our lives have turned out far different than we planned back in high school and are personalities have grown and evolved in beautiful ways as a result. Some are married, some are mothers, some work full-time, some work at home, some watch CNN, others only watch HGTV, some are going through heartache, some just survived heartache, some love to read, some love to write, some are democrats, some are republicans.
Regardless of our differences, our bond of friendship unites us. And although our experiences have been very different from one another, every time we get together, we realize that many of our feelings are the same. There is beauty and empathy in hearing someone say, “oh my gosh, me too!” May you all reconnect with those awesome ladies in your life that make say, “me too!” And do it over bacon and carbs, obviously.
Every Thanksgiving I look forward to getting together with my family and enjoying delicious food, just like everyone else. But the one thing I look forward to the most is my grandma’s creamy pumpkin pie. She’s been making this pie for 20 years and it’s my absolute favorite. It’s lighter than the typical pumpkin pie, but it’s very rich and filling. The best part, it’s super easy to make! This pumpkin pie only takes 15 minutes to make and doesn’t involve baking. You just stick it right in the refrigerator to set. This is my kind of recipe!
I asked my grandma if there was a special story behind the recipe I could share, but she just happened to find it in a magazine one day back in 1996. Either way, it’s delicious and I wanted to share it with all of you. Enjoy!
Okay, so I’m a chronic recipe hoarder thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, but when I saw this “Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats” posted by Smitten Kitchen it was enough to motivate me to action. I love Smitten Kitchen and have absolute trust in all of her recipes. So when I needed a quick treat for a Halloween party last night I made a quick adaptation to turn these amazing little guys into a festive party treat!
Brown Butter and Sea Salt Rice Crispy Treat Pumpkins
Makes about 18 pumpkins (varies based on cookie cutter)
6 cups crispy rice cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)
Buttercream frosting to decorate
Pumpkin cookie cutter (or any shape you want)
In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.
As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth. Add food coloring to turn the marshmallow magic orange (gel food coloring gives a more vibrant color) and stir well.
Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together.
Quickly spread onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper.
Spray your hands with non-stick cooking spray (or oil) so the marshmallow concoction won't stick to your hands and then press marshmallow/crisp rice mixture to about 1/2 to 3/4 of inch in thickness.
Then using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes and allow mixture to cool.
While cooling make your frosting. Make 3/4 of the frosting black and 1/4 of the frosting green with your food coloring. Then transfer each color into a Ziploc bag for piping.
Cut a small hole in the corner of the Ziploc bag and begin piping faces on the pumpkins.
Sweet Lemon Made http://sweetlemonmade.com/
The brown butter and sea salt in these little guys will make you come back for more and more. Not to mention everyone will love you and ask you for this recipe. Thanks, Deb (SmittenKitchen)!
I know cake pops are so-4-years-ago, but they are tastier than you remember, less complicated than you think and a fun way to celebrate your favorite person or holiday. So read on and give them a try!
Like most ideas I have, this idea for a Spring-y treat came while wandering the aisles of Target. I’m sure you all know the feeling when you walk through those red double-doors and suddenly begin to see unreasonable potential in your creative self and/or your timetable to accomplish such creative endeavors. “Sure, I’ll buy twelve of these gold and mint shelf organizers at the Dollar Spot. This is totally the solution to my cluttered, drab pantry woes.” But then somehow those gold/mint organizers never make it to the pantry and end up cluttering some other closet.
This time the “Dollar Spot” wowed me with some fun, patterned tins (you know the ones, they have them every season just with a different pattern), I saw a few weeks ago. I had visions for some sort of Easter treat basket for my nieces. However, much like those gold and mint shelf organizers, I failed to transform these tins in a timely fashion (why was Easter so early this year???). I should know by now never to pick a time-sensitive creative project, it never works for me (as evidenced by the foam sticker hearts and yet-to-be-painted wood shamrocks in my closet). With Easter long gone and my strong resolve not to put these in the closet for next year (clearly, I already have two projects waiting in the wings already), I thought it would be fun to turn these into a springtime treat…Easter/Spring, same thing, right? As I stared at these pastel tins, it popped into my head to make cake pop “flowers” and to fill the tins with Oreo “dirt” for a fun, blooming treat for my nieces (a peace offering, really, since I failed them on the Easter baskets).
Now I don’t know if you’ve been following the blog long enough to realize that I am not the baker of this sweet lemon group—that’s Ashley—and I have only attempted cake pops one other time in my entire life, and, I’ll be honest, that endeavor belongs on one of those “Pinterest FAIL” blogs because it was seriously the worst. The middle of the cake pops were too gooey due to an inappropriate frosting-to-cake ratio and the supposed thin, chocolate outer-coating was more like a lumpy, rock-hard slab of confection, all on a stick. I took them to my coworkers and they about lost a tooth just attempting to take a bite.
Naturally I was a little nervous to try again, especially knowing that I was going to be putting it out there for all the blogging world to see (I know, it’s only 12 of you, but still), but I was determined to get these tins outta my closet! So I called up Ash and bamboozled her into helping me with this spring cake pop project (note: one of my favorite parts about Ashley is that she is easily bamboozled by my crazy ideas—bless her).
Tip: While waiting for cake to cool cut it into slices so the heat escapes faster.
While the cake balls were chilling we prepped our pots with styrofoam (those pops have to have something to hold them up). We found that the small styrofoam balls worked better than a square, but honestly, you can use whatever you have lying around. We just chopped off some sides until it nestled in nicely. You want it to be snug so the foam and the pops don’t slide around. You also want to make sure that your foam is below the rim of the pot about an inch to allow space for your Oreo “dirt.” Once you shaped and chopped to size add the crushed Oreos to the top of the foam.
Tip: Pre-punch your holes where you will be putting your sticks into the styrofoam. Trust me, you will not want to forget this step! It is much harder to do when your cake pop is on the stick (you might end up losing a few cake pops).
This is where you gently tap and rotate the cake ball so that the candy coating lays (somewhat) flat and smooth on the cake ball. If your candy coating starts to cool down, it gets thicker and heavier, making it harder to coat the cake ball. Also, if your cake balls are no longer cold and become room temperature they are more prone to crack like this when dipping. Tip: The consistency of the candy coating should be thin enough to coat the cake pop but, not too thin that the cake pop shows through the candy coating. Use an extra cake pop to test out the consistency of the candy coating and if it needs to be thinned out add a tiny amount (1/8 of a teaspoon at a time) of vegetable oil until you reach a good consistency. Also, make sure to get your sprinkles on before the candy coating hardens.
Bake the cake as directed on the box, using the 9-by-13-in cake pan. Let cool completely.
Once the cake has cooled, line baking sheets with wax paper.
Crumble the cooled cake into the large bowl. You should not see any big pieces of cake.
Add up to three-quarters of the container of frosting to the bowl. (You will not need the remaining frosting. Save it in the refrigerator for a later use.) Mix it into the crumbled cake, using the back of the large metal spoon, until thoroughly combined. If you use the entire container, the cake balls will be too moist. The mixture should be moist enough to roll into 1 1/2-in balls and still hold a round shape. After rolling the cake balls by hand, place them on the prepared baking sheets and let them rest for about 20 minutes before chilling.
Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap and chill for several hours in the refrigerator, or place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. You want the balls to be firm but not frozen.
Place the candy coating in the deep microwave-safe bowl. These bowls make it easier to cover the cake balls completely with candy coating while holding the bowl and without burning your fingers. The coating should be about 3 inches deep for easier dipping. Work with about 16 oz of coating at a time.
Melt the candy coating. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval. (You can also use a double boiler.) Make sure you do not overheat the coating.
Now you’re ready to dip. Take a few cake balls out of the refrigerator or freezer to work with, keeping the rest chilled. If they’re in the freezer, transfer the rest of the balls to the refrigerator at this point so they stay firm but do not freeze.
One at a time, dip about 1/2 inch of the tip of a lollipop stick into the melted candy coating, and then insert the lollipop stick straight into a cake ball, pushing it no more than halfway through.
Holding the lollipop stick with cake ball attached, dip the entire cake ball into the melted candy coating until it is completely covered, and remove it in one motion. Make sure the coating meets at the base of the lollipop stick. This helps secure the cake ball to the stick when the coating sets. The object is to completely cover the cake ball and remove it without submerging it in the coating more than once. If you do resubmerge the cake pop, the weight of the candy coating can pull on the cake ball and cause it to get stuck in the coating. The thinner the consistency of your coating, the easier it will be to coat the cake pops. (If you find that your coating is too thick, add some vegetable oil to help thin it and make the coating more fluid.)
Remove the cake pop from the candy coating, some excess coating may start to drip. Hold the cake pop in one hand and use the other to gently tap the first wrist. Rotate the lollipop stick if necessary to allow the excess coating to fall off evenly, so one side doesn’t get heavier than the other. If you didn’t completely dunk the cake pop, this method of tapping and rotating generally takes care of that. The coating will slowly slide down the surface of the cake ball until it reaches the lollipop stick. If too much coating surrounds the base of the lollipop stick, you can wipe the excess off with your finger. Simply place your finger on the stick right under the cake ball and rotate the pop, allowing any excess coating to fall off and back into the bowl. When most of the excess coating has fallen off and it is no longer dripping, stick the cake pop into the Styrofoam block.
Repeat with the remaining cake balls and let the pops dry completely in the Styrofoam block.