Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MyWayToVeg #CollectiveBias
Looking for a way to stand out in the lunchroom crowd? I've been seeing a lot of blog posts lately featuring bento bags, cute little lunch sacks that tie shut from the top. Bento bags are Japanese in origin, inspired by the fascinating art of Furoshiki. Similar projects are used to wrap gifts and to hold or transport things in and around the home - in the most beautiful way possible!
This blog post has been compensated by Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. All opinions are mine alone. #LaVaquitaCheese #CollectiveBias #Ad
All hail the mighty casserole. She comes in many forms - often smothered in cheese and packed with flavorful layers. They are made to please a crowd, feed a small army, and reheat with ease. My personal favorites usually involve vegetables while my husband prefers casseroles that focus on pasta.
Vegetable lasagna puts together the best of both worlds, and like casseroles in general, the concept of vegetable lasagna has been reinvented over and over again. For this recipe, I decided to combine savory roasted eggplant and red bell peppers with crumbled queso fresco in a roasted tomato sauce. Replacing traditional ricotta cheese with queso fresco gives this casserole a firm, hearty texture.
I used La VaquitaⓇ Queso Fresco, a local Texas brand in this recipe. La Vaquita® was founded by Maria Castro in 1971. Castro began making the cheese from her Houston home shortly after immigrating from Mexico.
Using a traditional recipe she learned from her grandmother, Castro began making batches of cheese to share with friends and neighbors in Houston. Over 40 years later, La Vaquita® authentic Mexican cheeses and cremas are an important part of Texas' food identity!
Like ricotta or feta cheeses, queso fresco does not melt when heated, but remains firm and crumbly. The mild flavor and delicate crumbly texture of queso fresco is perfect for stuffing casseroles. La Vaquita® Queso Fresco has the classic mellow flavor I expect in a great queso fresco. For a sharper flavor, try using La Vaquita® Queso Fresco Salvadoreno instead.
Included are steps and ingredients for making a fresh tomato sauce using roasted garlic and tomato. To simplify this lasagna recipe, just omit the tomato, onion, and garlic, and skip steps 2 to 4. You are welcome to use a 16-ounce jar of marinara sauce instead.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna with Queso Fresco
A delicious layered casserole stuffed with crumbled queso fresco, savory roasted vegetables and fresh tomato sauce.
- 1 16-ounce package lasagna noodles,
- 5 pounds roma tomatoes
- 1 medium sized onion
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 large eggplant
- 4 small red bell peppers
- ½ cup frozen spinach
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup olive oil, divided
- 16 ounces La Vaquita® Queso Fresco crumbling cheese
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- salt and pepper, as needed
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water, then cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Do not overcook. Al dente noodles work best in lasagna. When the noodles have finished cooking, drain them quickly and rinse with cold water to cease cooking.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Slice the top ⅓ of the garlic bulb off, exposing bulbs. Brush the exposed bulbs with oil and place in small oven-proof bowl or crock. Set aside.
- Cut tomatoes into quarters and remove seeds. Peel and chop onion. Combine tomato and onion in a large bowl, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss together. Spread mixture onto baking sheet. Roast tomatoes, onions, and garlic bulb for 15 minutes. Remove garlic from oven, then set oven to broiler and broil for 10 minutes. Pop garlic cloves from peel when cool enough to handle.
- When tomato mixture has cooled enough to be handled safely transfer them to a blender. Add peeled garlic cloves, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon salt. 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and puree until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons minced basil.
- Set oven back to 450°F. Peel eggplant and cut into ¼ inch slices. Spread slices out on baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush slices with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Line a second baking sheet with parchment. Toss whole peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil and place on baking sheet. Roast peppers and eggplant for 20 - 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender and peppers have developed brown or black spots.
- Fill a large bowl or pot with water and ice. Drop roasted peppers into ice bath and allow them to cool for several minutes. Use your finger to peel the skin, stems, and seeds from the peppers. Reserve the peeled flesh in a small bowl and discard the rest. Chop the roasted flesh into strips.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish with olive oil, then place 3 lasagna noodles into the dish. Top with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Place the eggplant slices down to create the next layer, followed by about ½ of the La Vaquita® Queso Fresco.
- Place 3 more noodles down, and another layer of sauce followed by about ½ the shredded mozzarella, and ¾ roasted peppers.
- Place 3 more noodles down, and another layer of sauce followed by the second ½ of the La Vaquita® Queso Fresco and the frozen spinach.
- Place 3 more noodles down, and add one last layer of sauce followed by the remaining mozzarella cheese and red peppers. Sprinkle remaining basil over the top.
- Bake finished casserole for 45 minutes. Switch oven to broiler and broil for 5 minutes to brown cheese. Let lasagna stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
I shopped for this recipe at my local Fiesta. Fiesta carries a great selection of La Vaquita® products including quesos and cremas. You can check them out on Facebook as well. Make sure to look for Ibotta offers for a good deal.
Disclosure:This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Levana. The opinions and text are all mine.
Sleep when they sleep. These words are spoken no less than ten thousand time to every expecting parent, and it truly is great advice. Except for that part where you still need to shower, work, cook, take care of the house, and you know, get on with life. That's where the art of working through nap time comes in.
I never know exactly how long I'll have while the little one snoozes, so I make it a point to pack every moment of his sweet sweet slumber to the gills. I treat nap time sort of like bonus time. I might use it to catch up on work, catch a much needed shower, grab a bite to eat, prep our evening meal, or even sneak in a quick craft project.
...And sometimes I spend his nap on the couch binge watching trashy tv shows.
Anyway, however you choose to make use of those precious napping hours, having a great baby monitor is key. Being able to check on your little pumpkin without actually opening the bedroom door allows you to go about your nap time tasks with your mind at ease.
I was given the Willow™ 5” HD Touchscreen PTZ Video Baby Monitor to check out in advance of this blog post and I can honestly say that I was impressed. The camera has a high definition camera with pan, tilt zoom, and night vision - perfect for babies or toddlers that move around a lot as they sleep. The camera is extremely quiet too, so you don't have to worry about its motor waking your little one if you do choose to adjust the camera angle.
It's also incredibly helpful when checking on toddlers who are out of the crib. Since we moved C into a twin bed (mostly for mama's comfort, to tell you the truth) he's had the freedom to get up and get into pretty much anything and everything. Being able to swivel the camera around the room (and zoom!) lets me see what he's up to. If he's quietly reading books, I can snag an extra ten minutes of mama time before going to get him. If he's scaling the walls, I can intervene right away. It's pretty flipping awesome.
Besides being great for simply watching little ones, the Willow also comes with a ton of really cool extras like built-in feeding and nap timers, a temperature sensor, Talk to Baby™ or Parent Two-Way Communication, and the ability to play nature sounds and lullabies. The monitor uses a 5" touch screen, making it super easy to set up, operate, and customize features.
The 500 foot transmission range and 12-hour battery life of the monitor is also a big plus for busy parents. It gives you the freedom to move all over the house while staying in range. Not having to worry about plugging the monitor in as you go about your nap time tasks makes a world of difference. I can tote my monitor from the kitchen as I formulate recipes, out to the sun room to take photos, and then up to my office to work on a blog post - all without having to plug or unplug anything.
My inner tech geek loves that the Willow uses small private networks to transmit monitor data - discouraging potential hackers. Levana is a pioneer in high-tech monitors and puts a huge emphasis on safety, which is obviously a huge concern for parents.
I put together this cute little video to share a peek into how we make the most of nap time at our house. C loved starring in the mini-film, of course, and has asked me to play "his movie" no less than one million times since we finished it!
Click here for the easy-to share, short-form version
What would you like to do more of during nap time? Enter to win your very own Levana Willow Baby Monitor and make it happen! This giveaway runs until December 5. Good luck!
To find out more about Levana and their wonderful range of baby safety products, visit MyLevana.com. You can also follow Levana on Facebook, where the company shares adorable goodies, like the video below.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Levana. The opinions and text are all mine.
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RestAndRenew #CollectiveBias
It's no secret that children are adept at exhausting their parents. It sometimes feels like my husband and I spend every waking moment either at work or chasing our squealing toddler. There isn't much downtime for either of us, and it's been a long time since we've had the luxury of sleeping late or even through the night without interruption. Still, as most parents would tell you, we wouldn't trade our life with C for all the feather beds and R.E.M. on Earth. While the last two years have easily been the most tiring of our lives, they have also been the most rewarding
Still, there are days when I wonder if I might just fall asleep standing up. On those extra sleepy days my son is almost guaranteed to be overflowing with energy. Perhaps it's the universe's way of keeping the family's qì in balance - or maybe it's fate's idea of a cruel joke. Cosmic justifications aside, an over-tired parent and an abundantly engergetic child can be a recipe for trouble. Those are the days when I need to take some extra steps to help muster enough pep to get through the day.
Over the past two years I've developed a few tricks for re-energizing my mind and body. These healthy practices can be a boon on any day, but I find them to be especially useful on the days where I'm feeling a little sleepy.
Morning Walk - What better way to put a positive spin on an early wake-up than going for a morning walk? Exercising at the day's start can help boost energy levels all day long. This is a great example of making the most of a crumby situation - like having your kid jump on your head at 4:00am. If you're up anyway, you may as well do something to help yourself feel better about it. (Chocolate chip pancakes don't hurt either.)
Sneak in a Shower - I am going to go out on a limb and assume that I'm not the only parent who counts a shower as a luxury. Depending on your childcare situation and schedule, an unscheduled shower can be a tricky thing to pull off. But if you can manage it, a healthy spray of water can be just the thing to wake you up. If a real shower isn't in the cards, try just splashing your face with water or even dousing your head in the sink.
Power Nap - An even less likely option than showering for some parents, but again, if you can make it happen, bravo! A short nap, even as brief as 15-20 minutes can do wonders for your overall feeling of wellness. Try and sneak in a snooze while your little one naps, or grab a quick sleep break when your partner or sitter arrives.
Power Snacks - Try snacking on foods packed with energy-boosting vitamins and minerals, like B12, magnesium and potassium. Some great examples of healthy power snacks are almonds, dark chocolate, berries, peanut butter and bananas. Fresh fruit and power greens always make me feel a little better too.
Eat Lunch Outside - A little boost of Vitamin D can help to improve your mood, while the burst of sunlight and fresh air will help remind your body that it is, indeed, awake! If you have your kiddo in tow, this doubles as a way to get some of their excess energy out. Let them play hard while you soak up some rays.
Hydrate - Drinking plenty of fluids is key to good health in general, but is specifically useful for feeling awake and energetic. Being even mildly dehydrated can leave you feeling fatigued, so chug those liquids all day long. Adding a squirt of lemon to your water can add electrolyte benefit too!
Early to Bed, Early to Rise - Strangely enough, I often have a hard time falling asleep on the days I am most tired. This can be really frustrating, and can prolong the torture of exhaustion. I've learned to be pro-active when it comes to recovering from sleepless nights by heading straight to bed after putting my son to sleep. An added bonus to getting to bed early is being able to wake up before my son the next morning. Having some precious alone time when I first wake up is a real treat, and helps make me feel more together all day long.
Dance Party - Nothing gets your blood flowing like good old fashioned exercise. When you feel like you're really hitting a wall try turning up the music and dancing like you've got your own music video. Your kid will love it, and you'll definitely be more awake after a song or two.
In addition to energy-boosting strategies like these, finding a nutritional supplement that works well for you can be a big help. I took Maca Powder for the first time last year while I was trying to conceive. I had learned about the supplement while researching fertility diets, and found that this natural root vegetable, cultivated in the Andes mountains of Peru, has been traditionally used for both food and nutritional purposes. Traditional used for Maca Powder include promoting energy, balancing hormones, aiding sexual function, and the relief of PMS and menopause symptoms.*
I was asked to try out youtheory® Maca Powder previous to writing this post. Having tried several brands of Maca Powder over the past year I could immediately tell that youtheory® Maca Powder was superior in quality to the varieties that I had tried in the past. I found the aroma and flavor of this Maca Powder to be quite mild and easy to blend with everyday foods like smoothies or yogurt. It works especially well in anything with a nutty or spicy flavor. My personal favorite way to enjoy youtheory® Maca Powder is to stir it into pumpkin flavored yogurt.
So what makes youtheory® Maca Powder a great supplement for tired parents? Maca is regarded as a “superfood" and is an "adaptogenic botanical”, meaning that it helps the body adapt to stress and supports normal functions throughout the body. It's considered safe for long-term use, and it can benefit both men and women by helping to encourage healthy hormone levels.*
Nothing messes with my mood and energy level like having my hormones swing out of whack, so I pretty much LOVE Maca Powder. Since this supplement is also used to support reproductive health*, I'm crossing my fingers that making Maca Powder a part of my daily routine will help my body get in better shape for baby-making. We're currently trying to conceive without the use of prescription drugs or treatments. (Mostly because we can't afford that path financially, but also due to the fact that my toddler is still not ready to wean. Ugh.) Cross your fingers for us!
And while you are doing something nice for me, do yourself a favor and think about how you're going to give yourself a little extra energy every day. Will you pledge to take power naps, make morning walks your new healthy habit, or maybe try adding a supplement like youtheory® Maca Powder to your meal plan? Let me know what you're planning to try (and how it works out for you) in the comments below!
Want to learn more about the benefits of youtheory® products and see how others are using them? Check out RestandRenew.com for more info. You can also follow youtheory® on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Look for youtheory® Maca Powder and other Maca Powder products on Costco.com, and FYI - you don't need to be a Costco member in order to shop on their website!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the American Heart Association
It sometimes surprises people to find out that I didn't really learn to cook until my mid-twenties. When I was 25, I could boil spaghetti, but that was pretty much it - despite having worked in restaurants since I was sixteen.
It wasn't until Scott Bobleo (my then boyfriend and now husband) ran into a health problem that I opened a cookbook in earnest and started really learning about food.
I shared this story in detail on The American Heart Association's blog. Visit the AHA blog to find out how breaking up with salt ended up changing the course of my entire life.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #thetalkofthetable #CollectiveBias The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.
There is a time and a place for excess. Having someone special over for dinner or celebrating holidays with family and friends. These are not the times for quinoa or superfoods. These are the times for cream, parmesan and pasta. These are the evenings when you set aside the spring water and crack open a bottle of wine instead.
The recipes I reach for on special occasions are meant to delight and indulge the people I love. I don't just want to feed the crowd around my table. I want to hear them say "mmmmm". I want them to clean their plates and dream about that amazing meal for weeks to come. There is nothing more rewarding to someone who loves to cook and to feed people than being asked for a repeat on the next holiday.
This recipe is one of those meals that brings my loved ones back again and again. At home, we simply refer to this dish as Lemon Spaghetti. It's something I tend to whip up when I want to dote on people. You can top it with almost any kind of meat or seafood, but my favorite thing to use, by far, is a big fat pile of gulf shrimp.
I've never tried using lobster or scallops, but I have a strong suspicion that either of those things would be out of this world. Grilled chicken is also delicious on this pasta, and is a great option for more casual dinners or for a crowd that isn't as fond of seafood. If you are feeding vegetarians, just top the dish with any kind of hearty roasted vegetable. Peppers, eggplants, or zucchini would all be perfect.
Creamy pasta and seafood go very well with a chilled glass of chardonnay. Clos du Bois Chardonnay is a favorite at our house, so I was delighted to pair it with this dish. This bright and refreshing white wine has a low-medium oak flavor with a mildly sweet and fruit-forward flavor. It's oak flavor is well balanced and not at all overwhelming. The flavor and value of Clos du Bois Chardonnay makes it a super approachable wine that you can enjoy at special occasions or as an everyday house wine.
When it comes to making pasta-focused dishes it stands to figure that your choice in brands of pasta is an important one. Barilla, who I have partnered with for this post, happens to be the #1 choice for packaged pasta in Italy! If it's good enough for Italy, it's good enough for us. Barilla is a brand I reach for often. Simple ingredients, consistent quality, and a reasonable price point are all big wins when it comes to pasta. Barilla is a good fit for all three.
Lemon Scampi with Gulf Shrimp and Roasted BroccoliA quick and easy breakfast bowl made with sweet potato, spinach, avocado, and egg.
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets,
- 1 pound fresh gulf shrimp
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- salt, as needed
- black pepper, as needed
- 1 pound Barilla Angel Hair Pasta
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ white onion, minced
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
- 4 lemon wedges
- Preheat oven to 450F. Toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black or crushed red pepper. Roast on baking sheet for 20 minutes.
- Add a hefty pinch of salt to a large pot of water. Heat on stovetop over high heat, covered, until it comes to a rolling boil. Add pasta. Stir. Boil for 5 minutes before draining and rinsing with cold water. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, peel and devein shrimp. (Instructions here.) Toss with ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
- Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the pan is sizzling hot, place shrimp in pan. Cook shrimp 2 minutes, flip over, cook 2 more minutes. Remove shrimp to dish and set aside.
- Add 2 more tablespoons butter to pan along with garlic and onion. Cover, and cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until onions clear.
- Remove cover. Add heavy cream and bring to simmer over medium heat. Whisk in cream cheese, then add remaining ½ cup heavy cream. Bring back to simmer and slowly whisk in grated parmesan. Whisk until cheese melts completely (about 2 minutes).
- Turn off heat. Whisk in lemon juice. Toss pasta into sauce.
- Divide pasta between 4 dishes. Top with broccoli, shrimp, and wedge of lemon. Lemon should be squeezed over pasta right before eating.
What are your favorite recipes to feed friends and family? Do you have a special dish that keeps them coming back for more? I'd love to hear what you are cooking up.
Need some inspiration for your next big meal? Visit The Talk of the Table to discover even more delicious ways to pair Barilla Pasta and Clos du Bois wines. For even more ideas, check out Barilla and Clos du Bois on Pinterest!
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CreateWithCommand #CollectiveBias
The warm colors of autumn make it the perfect season for handmade decor. Natural materials, like leaves, branches, and acorns make for classic yet compelling subjects - especially with the addition of a little creativity.
This project uses gold and gray craft paint to embellish simple paper leaves. The result is a simple, but modern looking piece of artwork that adds a touch of wistful autumn spirit to its surroundings.
I used paper leaves because here in Austin we aren't blessed with much colorful foliage this time of year. Paper leaves are also a bit easier to work with and come in bright, predictable colors!
If you have them handy, I highly encourage the use of natural leaves for this project. They do tend to be a little more fragile, but their natural beauty is utterly magical and totally worth the extra effort.
If you are using natural leaves, try to pick ones that are thick, small, and sturdy as they will be the easiest to work with.
Autumn Leaf Mobile
- 1 10-inch wooden embroidery hoop
- 1 skein cream/gold yarn
- 1 spool cream colored embroidery thread
- Eight leaves (real or paper)
- Gold craft paint
- Gray craft paint
- 1 wooden bead
- 1 3m Command™ Small or Medium Wire Toggle Hook (or Command™ Ceiling Hook)
- Paint the tips of your leaves with gray and gold paint. I used gold on half of my leaves and gray on the others.
- Wrap embroidery hoop tightly with yarn. Start by fastening a tight knot to the hoop, then wrap the yarn tightly around the hoop, finishing with a second knot at the end.
- When the paint on your leaves has dried, use a mini hole punch to punch two holes in the top of each leaf. If you are using natural leaves (or fragile paper), place a tiny piece of clear tape over the area before punching your holes.
- Cut pieces from the spool of thread in the following lengths: 28", 25", 22", 19", 16", 13", 10", and 7". (8 total.) Tie one end of each thread to a leaf.
- Tie the other ends of the strings to the hoop at 3" intervals. Snip off any extra thread from the mobile.
- Cut 3 20" pieces of thread from the spool. Tie the threads to the hoop at 8" intervals, spacing them as evenly as you can. Thread the ends of these threads together through the wooden bead and tie a loose knot to bind them together.
I used 3m Command™ Brand Hooks to hang my mobile. This was a really perfect brand for me to partner with since I truly do use their products all the time.
I love how 3m Command™ Brand Hooks and Strips allow me to re-invent my decor without damaging my walls. This way, I can change up decor for every season, or whenever the mood strikes me.
If I'm feeling creative and I want to craft up a new piece of wall art, a seasonal garland, or feature a favorite photo, I can quickly re-position anything on the wall to make room. Using damage-free 3m Command™ Brand products makes switching up my home's look an easy and painless process.
The best part? No spackle, no touch-up paint, no damaged walls!
- Choose a spot to hang your mobile. I used the outer edge of a floating shelf to suspend my mobile over a dresser. Use a wall hook to hang it as I've shown here, or use a ceiling hook to suspend your mobile from the ceiling.
( Keep in mind that 3m Command™ Brand Hooks work best on smooth, finished indoor surfaces. )
- Clean the area you wish to place your 3m Command™ Brand Hook and adhere it to the surface using these instructions from 3m.
- You may need to wiggle the bead up and down a little in order to make sure your mobile is level. Adjust as needed, then enjoy!
I shopped for this project at my local Target. Truth be told, a good deal of our autumn decor was not made by hand, but in fact purchased at Target. Their seasonal stuff is dangerously cute. You can find a huge assortment of 3m Command™ Brand Hooks and Strips in the home improvement section at Target.
How are you decorating your home for autumn? I'd love to see what you are working on! Share your photos with me by email, or by tagging @MaryMakesGood on social media.
Need some ideas for dressing up your place? For more great content, please visit CreateWithCommand.com.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #NewWayToSparkle #CollectiveBias
There is something special about kicking up one's heals with a glass full of something sweet and bubbly. For those who choose to forego the typical fizzy libations the holiday season can present somewhat of a challenge. Creative soft drinks, like the recipe I'm sharing today, are a great way to include guests of all ages and all beverage preferences to participate in the revelry of holiday parties, social gatherings, and simple celebrations.
It's a new way to sparkle.
This recipe combines Lime flavored DASANI® Sparkling with a sweet and tart homemade cranberry lime sorbetto. DASANI® Sparkling has a mild natural flavor, plenty of peppy carbonation, and most importantly for this recipe, no added sugar. That gives you the ability to modify the drink to your own taste as far as sweetness goes. Add as much or as little sorbetto as you please to craft a quick custom mocktail that is light, refreshing, and completely party-worthy.
I've included a recipe for handmade sorbetto but store bought sorbetto or sorbet will work nicely too. Try making this recipe your own by using a different flavor of sorbetto or another flavor of DASANI® Sparkling.
Cranberry Lime Sorbetto
Makes about 3 cups
- 1 10-oz (284g) bag frozen whole cranberries
- 4 cups water, divided
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 cup sugar
- Combine cranberries with 3 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove cranberries and cooking liquid from saucepan and set aside to cool.
- Add remaining 1 cup water and sugar to saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, stir, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Let ingredients cool for about 15 minutes. Place cranberries with cooking liquid in blender and puree for 2 minutes, or until smooth.
- Push pureed cranberries through fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and solid portions. Discard solids and combine liquid with water and sugar mixture (simple syrup).
- Chill mixture in refrigerator for at least one hour before pouring into ice cream maker. Churn 45 minutes, or according to machine directions.
- Freeze churned sorbetto for at least 4 hours before using/serving.
Cranberry Lime Sorbetto Fizz
Makes two small servings
- 2-4 scoops cranberry lime sorbetto
- 1 12-ounce can DASANI® Sparkling Lime
- 2 slices lime, for garnish (optional)
- 6 fresh cranberries, for garnish (optional)
- Scoop 1 or 2 scoops cranberry lime sorbetto into highball glasses. 1 scoop will lend mild sweetness. Add 2 for a sweeter drink.
- Pour 6 ounces DASANI® Sparkling Lime into each glass.
- Garnish with lime and cranberries. Serve immediately.
I purchased the ingredients for this recipe at my local Target. You can find plenty of flavors of DASANI® Sparkling in their soft drink section. Dasani recently added a 20-ounce can of DASANI® Sparkling to their line which you'll find over near the checkout. That's the perfect size for grabbing on your way out the door.
C and I spend quite a lot of time at Target these days. Being able to make one stop to pick up groceries, go clothes shopping, or even scope out art supplies is pretty key to our existence right now. It helps that C loves exploring the store too - so it isn't a battle to get him to come with me.
Getting him to leave the toy section? That's another story.
Have fun with your mocktails! I hope this recipe will help make your celebrations a little sweeter! You can find even more fun recipes using DASANI® Sparkling here.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SamsClubMag #CollectiveBias
People, it's really happening. Fall is here!
I am so ready. I've long been a summer person, but this year I spent most of the dog days here in Texas hunkered down inside my house with the air conditioning on. Maybe I was depressed - or just burnt out on sunshine or 100+ degree temperatures. Either way, I feel the fog lifting with every dropping degree and I couldn't be happier. There is nothing like that first cool, crispy breath of autumn. Every year in Texas it seems to look the same - painted with a bright blue sky and enjoyed by rolling down the car windows for the first time in forever.
Speaking of cool crispy things, how about apples? They are pretty much the quintessential autumn food as far as I'm concerned. I've been going a little crazy with them lately and I'm not even close to letting it go. This afternoon I put together a little something savory by pairing sweet apples with earthy mushrooms and savory miso. I don't want to make any promises, but these pork chops might just blow your mind.
They are moist and juicy, dripping with pan sauce, and stuffed with a blend of tasty autumn ingredients that couldn't be more seasonally appropriate.
This is one of those recipes that may sound a little more complicated than it actually is. The marinade, which is made simply by whisking together some key ingredients, doubles as a pan sauce when cooked along with the pork chops. Finishing the pork chops in the oven helps to keep the meat tender and juicy. Try serving this delicious main dish with hearty brown rice and a roasted vegetable like acorn squash or sweet potato.
Apple Miso Pork Chops with Mushroom Stuffing A sweet and savory stuffed pork chop recipe made with fresh apples and mushrooms. Serves 2 Ingredients:
- 2 4-ounce thick cut boneless pork loin chops,
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin (or white wine)
- 1 tablespoon roasted almond oil (or toasted sesame oil)
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/3 cup sliced shallots
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup sliced apples
- 1/3 cup sliced scallions
- salt & pepper to taste
- cooking oil, as needed
- Whisk together miso paste, onion powder, soy sauce, vinegar, and mirin until smooth. Add the almond oil and whisk until well-blended. Add the apple cider last, and mix once more. This is the marinade.
- Place the pork chops flat on a cutting board and slice them parralel to the board to butterfly the meat. Cut into the meat all the way to the far edge, stopping just before cutting through. This will make a sort of pocket in the pork chop. Repeat with the second chop, then pound both pork chops with a mallet to tenderize them.
- Coat each pork chop in marinade, then pack them into a close-fitting container or plastic bag along with the remaining marinade. Let the chops sit, refrigerated, for at least one hour.
- Prep the stuffing by slicing your ingredients as thinly as possible, and setting each aside in its own separate bowl. When you pork chop has finished marinating, preheat the oven to 350F, and set a large skillet over the stove. Turn the burner on to medium-high heat. When the pan is sizzling hot, add a few teaspoons of cooking oil to coat the pan.
- Fry the shallots first, cooking them for 3-5 minutes, or until the soften and clear just a little. Remove them from the pan, add a little more oil, if needed, and begin frying the mushrooms. It's important not to crowd the mushrooms during this step, so if you are working with a smaller pan, try frying just half of the mushrooms at a time. Cook the mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes, just long enough to brown them a little.
- When all of the mushrooms are cooked, add them back to the pan along with the shallots and the apples. Cook everything for about 1 minute, just long enough to warm the apples. Turn the heat off, then add the scallions and season with a dash of salt and pepper. Toss everything together, then transfer to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
- Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator. Pull them from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and reserve the remainder of marinade for later. Stuff each pork chop with prepared stuffing as full as possible. You may have more stuffing than you need. the remainder can be served as a side. Just be careful not to cross-contaminate the stuffing while filling the raw chops. That means don't use any utensil to touch the stuffing that you also use to fill the pork chops. In other words, no double dipping!
- Turn the skillet back on to medium heat. When hot, add a few more teaspoons of oil to coat the skillet, then carefully place the stuffed chops into the pan. Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes, then pour the remaining marinade over the top of the chops, flooding the pan with sauce.
- Turn off the stove burner and cover the skillet with a lid or with aluminum foil. Place the covered skillet into the oven and roast for 8 - 10 minutes, or until a thermometer shows the internal temperature of the stuffed chops as 165F.
- Transfer the pork chops to plates and spoon the cooked marinade from the bottom of the pan over the top of each pork chop. Serve immediately.
I shopped for the main ingredients for my recipe at Sam's Club. The shelves were bursting with fresh ingredients like crispy salad fixings and seasonal fruits and veggies. I was especially impressed with their prices on apples and pumpkins. I may have to make another trip soon to work on more autumn goodies.
Sam's Club can be a wonderful resource for whole ingredients and natural cooking. The food selection includes a great range of produce, meats, and even seafood. Buying main ingredients like these in bulk is actually a really practical way to make cooking at home easier.
I like to stock my freezer with bulk ingredients so that I always have the basics I need to throw together an easy dinner. Not having to run to the store for ingredients before every meal can help save you time, money, and precious mental energy.
Sam's Club has its own online lifestyle magazine called Healthy Living Made Simple. The magazine offers insight on everyday health questions, fitness tips, and recipes for healthy seasonal eating. This month's featured seasonal ingredient is the mushroom! You can find out what makes these delicious earthy little nuggets a health hero in Healthy Living Made Simple's latest Superfood Spotlight.
Sam's Club also offers in-club health screenings for members on the second Saturday of EVERY month. The next screening will take place on October 8. (Check with your local Sam's Club for more details on this program.) Sam's Club offers hearing and vision services, a pharmacy, over the counter medications, and a great selection of basic ingredients for healthy cooking - all great resources for your healthy lifestyle.
Do you shop in bulk for fresh foods or natural pantry ingredients? Do you have any tricks to share for using up fresh produce quickly or keeping large purchases fresh longer? Shower us with your wisdom in the comments below.
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FarFromOrdinaryMilk #CollectiveBias
At least that's what my 2-year old tells me. At first I thought my little one invented his own holiday, but after a little investigation I found out that Apples Day is a real thing! Or, to be more exact, Johnny Appleseed Day is a real thing. September 26 is celebrated as Johnny Appleseed's birthday and his preschool class has been learning about apples all month.
CC has demanded an Apples Day party to honor the occasion. Being the overly-indulgent parent that I am, I quickly agreed and have had apples on my mind ever since. We're planning to host a family potluck for Apples Day later this month. I can't wait to see what apple-themed recipes our friends and family bring to the table.
To tell you the truth, I haven't thought about Johnny Appleseed much since I was a kid. He was a famous pioneer during the early 1800's and was known for his generosity, dedication to conservation, and of course, his love of apples.
I love apples too, so old Mr. Appleseed and I have that in common. Apple-flavored dairy products were something I fell in love with while living in Beijing. Apple yogurt, smoothies, and ice creams had an unexpected, but extraordinary taste that I quickly fell in love with. I've been meaning to work on an apple ice cream ever since. Our Apples Day celebration inspired me to finally make it happen!
Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream is sort of like taking the best flavors from pie ala mode and concentrating them into one rich and creamy dessert. This ice cream has a dense texture that works wonderfully with crispy cones, crunchy granola, and salty caramel sauce. Don't forget to include a nice dollop of whipped cream too. That's an Apples Day sundae you won't forget.
I used homemade apple butter in this recipe but you can save some time by using store-bought apple butter instead. Look for something with a little cinnamon to give your ice cream plenty of warm spicy flavor.
The other key ingredient in this ice cream is, of course, the milk! I used Promised Land Dairy's Homogenized Milk to make my Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream. This unique brand of milk gets it's extra rich and creamy flavor from Jersey cows, a breed that hails from the British Isle of Jersey. (Not the state of New Jersey!) According to Promised Land, extraordinary flavor comes from extraordinary cows. I couldn't agree more!
These special brown cows only make up about 10% of the milk produced in the United States. The majority of our milk comes from the classic black and white Holstein breed. I was surprised to discover a noticeable difference in the texture and flavor of Promised Land's milk. Not only does it have an exceptional flavor, it is actually higher in protein and calcium than other varieties of milk.
When it comes to making ice cream, the flavor of the milk used can make a huge difference in the final product. Promised Land has turned out to be an excellent choice. I noticed a thicker and creamier ice cream custard as soon as I started experimenting with it.
Try using Promised Land milk in creamy cheese sauces, chowders, bisques, and custards to showcase it's extraordinary flavor. I've also found it to be an ideal drinking milk - if you should find yourself with some cookies to nibble. My hubby, Scott Bobleo, who is pretty much a chocolate milk expert is a huge fan of Promised Land's Midnight Chocolate flavored milk.
Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream
Makes about 2 pints
This dense and creamy ice cream tastes delicious over granola, graham crackers, or coffee cake. Serve with fresh whipped cream and caramel sauce to make a delicious apple cinnamon sundae!
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3/4 cup apple butter, divided (recipe here)
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cream cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of milk with cornstarch and set aside.
- Combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat, then whisk in the cornstarch and milk slurry. Return the pan to burner. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
- In a large heat-proof mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and salt. Remove the cinnamon stick from the hot milk and cream mixture, then pour over the cream cheese. Whisk gently to combine the melted cheese with the hot custard. Add 1/2 cup apple butter and whisk to combine thoroughly.
- Pour the custard into a large ziplock bag, then submerge the sealed bag in a bowl filled with ice and water. Cool the custard completely.
- Churn the custard in your ice cream machine for 30-40 minutes, or until the ice cream thickens enough to pull away from the sides of the barrel.
- Scoop the soft ice cream into pint-sized containers, adding a spoonful of the reserved apple butter between every few scoops of soft ice cream.
- Freeze the ice cream for at least 2 hours before serving.
I purchased my Promised Land milk at my local Target. Right now you can save an extra $0.75 on your purchase of Promised Land products using Ibotta. Click here to learn how you can earn rebates on Promised Land products and many other everyday purchased using Ibotta.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Carter’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
During the summer my little one spent quite a lot of time au naturale. That is to say - in the buff.
The baby buff.
I'm a big fan of baby buff. It's arguably the best look ever for people under one year old. It's comfortable, versatile, and really works well with their whole brand new human vibe.
Then autumn arrives and a chill hits the air. Rain starts to fall and the promise of colder weather looms ahead.
It's time to put some clothes on, baby.
The folks at Carter's asked me to put together a checklist of essential baby clothes for the Fall. I'm a fairly practical mama, so my list is short and sweet.
That doesn't mean that I don't indulge in the occasional pair of tiny suspenders or denim jackets. I am not immune to temptation - especially when it comes to tiny cute clothes.
But this list is all about the basics - six essential items for the autumn baby!
Carter's selection of baby clothes makes dressing even the most free-wheeling babe a breeze. Take my nephew here, a natural born nudist. Even he feels cozy in a soft cotton bodysuit.
Basic items like the classic bodysuit, tiny little socks, and soft stretchy baby pants keep little ones comfy and warm without a lot of fuss.
Bodysuits are probably to most essential item in the baby wardrobe. Available in short or long sleeve, with or without cutesy graphics, and complete with quick snaps and envelope shoulders you can get them on and off in moments. Wear them alone or under pants, skirts, or overalls. Anything goes with this baby wardrobe basic.
I start off almost every baby outfit with a bodysuit. They are easy to change into and out of in case of (ahem) diaper trouble. AND they match pretty much everything.
Socks are another key item in keeping the autumn baby properly outfitted. As many a random stranger has told me, "your baby needs socks." I have rolled my eyes at these people plenty of times, but keeping tiny feet warm during chilly weather is actually kind of important.
Baby Pants is not just an incredible nickname for your child, it's also a very important item for their autumn wardrobe. I like to keep my basic collection of baby pants soft, comfy, and stretchy.
These are even available with feet. Just think, you can readily avoid the nosy sock strangers by dressing your kid in pants with built-in socks.
Then there are the extras - those fun little items that help prepare baby for cool fall weather while also making him EVEN CUTER. (Not so sure cuter is a real word, but I'm just going to go with it. Ok?)
Hoodies, Vests, and Jumpsuits make it simple to add or remove layers as needed - keeping baby ready for cold snaps or outdoor adventuring.
Booties and itty bitty Crib Shoes are great for providing extra warmth while seriously upping your baby's style game.
I think my little CC wore booties all of one or two times during his babyhood but the cuteness factor was pretty intense. Sometimes I wish we'd lived in a cooler climate just so I could have taken more baby bootie pictures. Those of you with Northern babes had better take advantage!
Pajamas are one of those things that sometimes take the parents of Spring and Summer babies by surprise. During the hotter months you may not need baby jammies at all. But when the weather gets cooler babies love feeling snug in long sleeves and footy pajamas.
Save 25% at Carter's
Right now you can stock up on babyhood essentials at Carters by using this super special discount code: CARSEPB. This little lovely will score you a cool 25% off of your purchase of $40 or more. (Details below)
What are your must-have babyhood essentials for the fall season? Share your picks and photos in the comments below or by tagging your social media posts with #lovecarters.
Giveaway! Win a $50 Carter's Gift Card
From now until September 26 you can WIN FREE Carters goodies by participating in the Carter's Pin Baby Pin Contest. To enter, just upload a photo of your little one dressed up to the nines. When the contest ends 75 lucky winners will be picked to receive $50 Carter's gift cards.
Recently I was invited to try out the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker, and I must say, it couldn't have come at a better time. I've been under a lot of stress lately and I've noticed it taking a toll on my overall health and sense of wellness. I find myself fighting low feelings more and more often, and my body - well, that just hurts.
I'm stiff, sore, and far more plump than I'd like to be. It's becoming clear to me that something has got to change.
While there isn't much that I can do to eliminate the issues that are causing me stress, I am not completely helpless. I have control over something with the potential to be life-changing - my mind! I may not be able to stop life from being stressful, but I can choose how to respond to and cope with that stress.
By being more mindful of my moods, breathing, and activity level, I can face every day armed with tools to lead a happier, healthier existence.
So where does this little gadget fit in? The Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker is a small wireless device that tracks my heartbeat, breath, and movement. That data is sent to a companion app on my smartphone that keeps a record of my physical and emotional state during each day.
The tracker even alerts me when I become tense or have been sedentary for long periods of time. In this way, Spire makes mindfulness more attainable by alerting me in-the-moment. It even suggests breathing exercises and meditations to lead to a more mindful behavior change - either helping me reach a calmer and more focused state or even becoming more active.
Over the past week of using my Spire Tracker I have already become far more aware of both my mental state and my level of physical activity. I've even discovered anxiety triggers in unexpected places. Writing grocery lists, for example, really gets me going! I had no idea how much that simple task stressed me out, and it's something I often end up doing several times a week.
Thanks to my Spire, I've been re-thinking my approach to grocery shopping and meal planning. If what we are doing now causes me this much anxiety than clearly we need to simplify our routine. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
Using my Spire has also been a huge wake-up call for my physical fitness. I think I just assumed chasing a toddler day in and day out made up for dedicated exercise time. I was shocked to see that even on my busiest days my daily step count fell well under the recommended amount. No wonder it has been hard for me to lose weight. I'm just not moving enough.
Curious about the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker? Click here to learn more.
Eight Tips for Creating a More Mindful Home
Spire asked me to share some of my own tips for making mindfulness a bigger part of everyday life. For me, life revolves around my home and family. I try my best to incorporate the practice of mindfulness into our daily routine simply by making an effort to be emotionally present. I look for moments of love and wonder between the spilled milk and temper tantrums.
I try to remind myself that no matter how hard life can be sometimes, this is exactly where I want to be. These are the best days of my life. I don't want to miss them.
Beyond embracing an overall philosophy of mindfulness, there are a lot of small changes you can make in your home to make it more conducive to being present. The following tips are shared from my own experience trying to become a more mindful mama.
As always, I encourage you to take what resonates with you from this list, and leave the rest. You do you. No one can do it better.
Impose Tech-Free Zones
I try not to make a habit of staring at my phone or zoning out in front of my tablet. Still, I find that my husband and I have a tendency to waste our precious time alone together scanning social media or news headlines.
One way to combat our weakness for technology is to designate certain areas of the home or times of day as tech-free. That means that anything with a screen, whether it’s a phone, tv, or computer, must not be used. For us, that’s every meal time and the last few hours before our son goes to bed.
I’ve considered making the living room a permanent no-phone zone, but the idea hasn’t gone over too well with my husband. Yeah, that’s one big catch. You’ll need to find a plan that your entire family feels comfortable with and fully supports. Otherwise, it may feel more like a punishment than an opportunity for mindful togetherness.
Tip: Another way to approach this issue is to implement the opposite rule, giving family members free reign to binge on screen-time during designated times of day.
Make Your Bed
This is a truly simple practice that has afforded me an abundance of peace of mind. Before starting your morning routine, try and take a few moments to make your bed. Pull the sheets tight, tuck them in with care, and fluff up your pillows. This tiny act of tidying can help the day ahead feel less overwhelming.
Take it a bit further by flopping down on that freshly made bed and just breathing for a little while. Even if you only have a minute (literally) to spare, spending it in quiet reflection can help you feel relaxed and refreshed. If you can, try repeating this mini-mediation after getting home from work, or right before you put the kids to bed. It works all day!
Tip: Try creating a tidy space for mini-meditation at the office, in your car, or anywhere you can catch a minute to yourself.
It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of throwing things away. Almost everything we use on a daily basis is available in a disposable form. Not only is the careless consumption of materials wasteful and troublesome for the environment, it also discourages mindfulness. We use things up and then throw them away without a moment of consideration for where it came from or where it is going.
Instead, try taking the time to think about the things you use everyday and how you might make more or better use from them. Practices such as recycling, up-cycling, and composting are all wonderful ways to stay mindful of our role in the world and to feel connected to the eco-system as a whole.
Making an effort to sustain natural resources can help us remember that we are part of a global community!
Tip: Investing in sturdy, re-usable objects like food containers, dryer balls, and water bottles can impact your home’s footprint drastically!
Detox Work Spaces
Clutter can be extremely distracting, especially when you are trying to focus on a job. This is not only true for the home office, but also in the kitchen, laundry room, garage, or anywhere else that you are required to focus on a task. De-cluttering those spaces can make anything from doing laundry to working on homework far more pleasant.
Start by thinking about what job the space is meant for. Take a hard look at the area and eliminate anything that doesn’t help you get that job done. This allows you to be present for the task at hand. So while you are doing the dishes, you can JUST do the dishes. You may even find it to be a pleasant escape from outside stress.
Tip: Try hanging art with inspirational images or positive messages in work spaces.
Create Shared Spaces
We’ve all got important things to do, but by creating spaces in your home that include everyone’s needs, you can at least do these important things together. Take some time to make sure your family or living room has space for everyone in your family. That means plenty of seating, toys and books for little ones, and work surfaces for doing homework, folding laundry, or sharing snacks.
Once you’ve got everyone together, don’t forget to enjoy it. Maybe strike up a conversation with your spouse or offer to let your little one “help” with whatever you are working on. Or, simply sit back and observe your loved ones just doing what they do.
Use a Tidy Timer
Establishing a reasonable clean-up routine is a great way to set boundaries on the stress of a messy home. Pick a time of day when everyone is home and available. (After dinner or before breakfast works for a lot of people.) Decide on a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to cleaning up. 30 to 45 minutes is a good time frame, but even just one 15 minute group cleanup can make a big difference.
Turn on a timer, then get to work. If the whole family cleans as a team you should be able to tackle at least the most important jobs in no time, and you can prioritize better if you know you have a time limit to work with. When the timer goes off, stop cleaning. Just stop. Let it go, and free your mind to focus on something more important, like spending some quality time with your loved ones. The key is to only think about cleaning up only when you are cleaning up.
Tip: Try adding a longer weekend or day-off cleanup time to tackle bigger jobs, like cleaning the windows or mopping the floors.
Whether it's a house plant or a backyard garden, caring for things growing and green can help lift your spirits and give you a sense of connection with the earth. Sharing this connection with the people you love makes it even better.
In a way, gardening can also be a form of meditation. Taking the time to pause and observe the plants that you tend can also help ground you in the present. If you approach the daily task of maintaining your plants with this intention, the benefits of the habit are easily increased.
Tip: For super low-maintenance plants, look for succulents, cacti, and air plants.
Make It Good
This little phrase comes from my chef in culinary school. He asked us to always keep the thought in mind, no matter what kind of food we were cooking or what kind of setting we worked in. He tried to teach us that taking pride in the task at hand, no matter how simple that task may be, would lead to a sense of joy and satisfaction.
I've found this to be true in so much more than cooking. Whether you are whipping up a pan of scrambled eggs or reading your child his favorite bedtime story for the umpteenth time, choosing to make an effort in that moment to do what you are doing well can make it much more enjoyable. And, it keeps you anchored in the moment rather than counting the moments until the chore is over.
Tip: You don't have to be a perfectionist to take pride in everyday tasks. Try to find the fun in honing your skills and don't let the imperfection get you down!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
There's nothing quite like spending an evening just hanging out with your friends. These days, getting the chance to just kick back with a glass of wine and some adult conversation is right up there with bungee jumping as far as soul-bending thrill rides go. I love my child, of course. But there are only so many conversations one can have about the sanctity of buttered macaroni before going slightly crazy.
So, when an opportunity arises to remove my mama hat and spend a night just as Mary, I'm all over it. A backyard bonfire is a perfect way to enjoy such an evening. It's an easy party to put together, and can be made to accommodate just a handful of friends or a rowdy crowd with ease. You don't need much in the way of preparation to throw a great bonfire. Really, a small fire, some good friends, and an everyday wine, like JaM Cabernet, is all you need to have a great night.
To make your bonfire even more special, you can try adding some of my favorite finishing touches. A few small luxuries, like gourmet bonfire snacks, cozy throw blankets, and festive lighting can kick your casual little party up a notch, making it feel like a proper celebration.
Need help finding the perfect wine for your backyard bonfire? Enter your zip code in the JaMCellars Wine Finder to locate a retailer near you.
A little mood music wouldn't hurt either. Click here for more ideas and to download a summer chilling playlist from JaM Cellars.
Setting the Mood
Mason Jar Lanterns: Help guests make their way from the back door to the bonfire by placing some jars with tealights around the yard. Any glass jars you have hanging around in the kitchen will do. Just pop a small candle or led light into each jar before setting them outside.
Seating: Provide plenty of seating to surround the fire. Benches, logs, Adirondack chairs, or folding chairs are all great choices.
Music Basket: We like to keep a small basket stocked with tambourines, maracas, and harmonicas for random musical outbreaks. This basket usually resides in our living room right next to the guitar and ukelele, but all three are usually carted outside in the event of a bonfire.
Throw Blankets: It can get chilly during a backyard bonfire. Try draping a few throw blankets over the seats before your party begins. Guests can wrap themselves up and get cozy later on.
Party Trays: Give guests a special place to set down their wine glasses and snacks by placing small serving trays in between seats. If you don't have any serving trays on hand, try using cutting boards or wooden crates instead.
Bug Spray: Make sure to have plenty of bug spray available to keep guests from getting nibbled while they enjoy the party.
JaM Cabernet: An excellent choice for a backyard bonfire, JaM Cab is made in the tradition of great California winemaking—rich, bold and luscious. This easy-drinking Cabernet is bold and fruity, with notes of fresh berries, plums, and vanilla. JaM Cab also happens to be one of the best Cabernets available for under $20 a bottle!
Craft Beer: Stock a cooler with your favorite craft beers to satisfy the brew lovers.
Soft Drinks: Don't forget that not everyone partakes in wine or beer. Throw some bottled water, sparkling water, and even a few choice soda pops in the cooler to make sure you have something on hand for everyone.
The following goodies can be prepared ahead of time using your broiler or barbecue. Or, let your guests try their hand at cooking over the bonfire instead. Just make sure that you and your guests take extra care to cook their treats safely. Use extra long skewers or roasting sticks and exercise caution with hot skewers and freshly roasted food!
Blistered Italian Peppers: Sweet Italian peppers are just the right size for popping on a skewer and roasting over an open flame. Prep your peppers by placing 2 or 3 onto a skewer, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt and pepper.
Brown Sugar Pineapple Spears: Roasted pineapple is made even more delicious with a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Chile Lime Mango: Peel and slice fresh mango into chunks before sprinkling it with chile powder, salt, and lime juice. For an extra kick, add a touch of cayenne or chipotle!
Gourmet S'More Baskets: Classic s'mores will always have a place in my heart, but why not dress this classic up a bit now that the kids have gone to bed? Make your s'mores more gourmet by providing artisan or handmade marshmallows* and a variety of chocolate options. Try dark chocolate bars mixed with toffee, fruit, cayenne, or caramel, or something really unique - like a peanut or almond butter cup! Pack the s'more ingredients in small baskets to make assembly quick and easy.
*My Bourbon Cherry Marshmallows would be amazing in a s'more. Get the recipe here.
How do you like to spend a relaxed evening with friends? Share your favorite bonfire or party night ideas in the comments below!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Disclaimer: This blog contains a sponsored Amazon links that helps support Mary Makes Good.
Mary Makes Good by Mary Helen Leonard is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License