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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wedding #1

This is Wedding #1. My awesome oldest sister has 5 truly beautiful daughters and no boys. We have all been bracing ourselves for a few years in the thought of 5 weddings. We never knew it would come so quickly! You talk and talk about these things coming, but when they do, it hits you like a brick wall. We sat up at from that brick wall, brushed the dust off, and got to work!
So, here it is, the 1st wedding of my 5 lovely nieces. 1 down, 4 to go!

If you know my family, my mother particularly, you know that she is the woman to call when you need ideas for a wedding or reception. She is the one with tubs and tubs of white tulle, a million boxes of silk flowers and just about everything else you need to put on a magnificent wedding or reception. I have been holding pins, setting up tables/chairs, placing flowers, setting up and taking down receptions my whole life. And I've loved every second of it! My mother has taught all 3 of her daughters very well. So, when we all get together to discuss a party or reception, you know it is going to be fabulous!
Recently, I've been going up to visit my hometown where my parents and my sister's family live, for the past few months. We've been collaborating and preparing for this wedding & reception since they were engaged in January. Between the 2 houses we got it done! It was GORGEOUS! Her colors were hot pink, orange, yellow and turquoise, very bright summer colors.

This is for you!
If you're planning a wedding or reception, here are some ideas! 
Here's what we did!

We'll start with the food. My niece wanted a chocolate fountain at her reception. I have ALWAYS hated getting crumby chocolate from people inserting their graham crackers or flaky food into perfectly smooth chocolate. So, we decided to have little cups where people would fill them and dip, double dip, and triple dip to their hearts desire! Happy me! 
The chocolate fountain "dippings" were:
Graham Crackers
Peanuts & Almonds,
& Piroulines
(Chocolate cookie sticks)

Just to the left of the chocolate fountain was the food table, where there was a fabulous veggie tray with broccoli, tomatoes, sliced peppers, snow peas and dip. To the side of the veggie tray were baked pesto garlic "pin wheel rolls." YUM!

To the left of the veggies and food, was the cupcake tower. This was a white cardboard cupcake tower my sister purchased and we hot glued pink ribbon to the edges. The pink ribbon made ALL the difference. My sister bought these scrumptious paper lace cupcake "embellishments." The brand on the box was David Tutera. We made all of the cupcake papers ahead of time so the "food helpers" wouldn't have to sit there and make each one as a cupcake was eaten.

And lastly, to the left of the cupcake tower was lemonade and water with different colored straws to choose from! The straws made it so fun and even brighter!

Here is a picture across the lawn. 
8 long tables, the dance floor and the "present cottage" on the left.

Here's a close up picture of the flower arrangements. We made them all together a couple months ago. They came together so beautifully. If you notice there's curly turquoise wires sticking out of the arrangements to add a little pizzazz. I learned that at a flower shop I worked at. Fun little touches like that are the things people remember.

Here is where the Bride and Groom stood with their parents to greet the guests. The gazebo was SCRUMPTIOUS! 

We took white Christmas lights and decorated the inside. It was like a canopy of lights. It looked amazing at night!

Here is the sign in table. My niece wanted a fun way to remember her guests who attended their wedding and reception. My mom and sister found 2 pillows that said MR. and MRS. on one side. They all decided to have the guests sign the back of the pillows! It was so fun! The front of the pillows that say MR and MRS were untouched, but the backs were the signatures they would never forget.

To the side of the sign in table was a large beautiful cork board my sister bought as a wedding gift for her daughter. On the cork board she typed up a paper that said, 
"Do you have any good advise for the Bride and Groom that will "stick" with them throughout their marriage?
Pin it on the board along with your name! People would grab a piece of paper and pen from the "pillow table" and write some advise. It was a fun way to display little notes of insight people had for the couple.

Hey do you remember this? This is the Garden Shed Turned Playhouse on a previous post! Click HERE to see how we did it!
This was the Present Cottage. My youngest niece was in charge of taking the gifts and placing them in the cottage. The mailbox was for the cards. It was so fun to see them open up the cottage doors to a pile of presents that would begin their new life together!

Here is the dance floor, large carpet round poles covered with white plastic. White lights strung from pole to pole and colored paper balls hanging from the lights. What a fun atmosphere for the dance party! 

I hope our Wedding #1 gave you some fun ideas for future weddings or parties! 
Check back in for the next 4 to come! 

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Crock Pot Blueberry Bread Pudding

Bread pudding in the crock pot? Say, what?! Oh yeah... talk about yummy, yummy in my tummy. This bread pudding is my new favorite dessert. It's creamy/sweet, soft texture paired with ice cream is the perfect combination. Make it in the crock pot so you don't have to worry! It's truly DELICIOUS! 

Crock Pot Blueberry Bread Pudding

8 (heaping) c. cubed bread- sour dough- french bread- sandwich bread- anything.
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. whole milk
4 eggs
1/4 c. melted butter
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. blueberries

Place your bread cubes in a large bowl. In another bowl whisk together milks, eggs, melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Pour the mixed liquid over the bread crumbs until coated. Fold in the blueberries. Grease your crock pot. Place the "liquified" bread into the crock pot and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours. Insert a knife or tooth pic in the center, if it comes out clean, it is done, if it's "gooey or sticky" cook longer.

Serve with vanilla ice cream! Yum...

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bacon Cheddar Bean Dip

Appetizer, appetizer, appetizer! This Bacon Cheddar Bean Dip is fantastic! Make it as smooth or chunky as you want. The bacon bits and cheddar cheese send this dip over the top! Serve with toasted bread or baguette slices. Yummm..... This is a perfect party dip!

Bacon Cheddar Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern (white) Beans - drained with liquid reserved.
1 garlic clove- minced
1 T. Lemon Juice
1 c. Shredded Cheddar Cheese
4 pieces crisp bacon - chopped into small bits
Salt to taste (1/4- 1/2 tsp.)

Combine drained beans, lemon juice, garlic and 2-4 T. "bean liquid" in a blender or food processor (add the liquid until you've reached your desired consistency. Blend until smooth. Fold in the cheddar cheese, and bacon, add salt to taste.

*Here's your choice, to have it hot or room temp. We like it warm so we transferred the bean dip into a small sauce pan to heat up. It's delicious both ways!

Serve with toasted french bread slices

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Ramen Almond Salad

This is one of my all time favorite salads, light, refreshing, crunchy and full of flavor. Make this for a barbecue or to make your family happy at dinner. It's your choice. This is a FAST salad, fast to make and fast to take down. Go and make it, you'll see! DELISH!

Ramen Almond Salad
1 pkg. sliced cabbage or 6-7 c. chopped cabbage
1/3 c. slivered or chopped almonds
2 pkgs. of beef or chicken flavored Ramen Noodles - crushed - flavor packets reserved
--Slightly brown the crushed noodles in 1 T. Olive Oil, add the slivered or crushed almonds

2 reserved flavor packets found in the Ramen Noodles
1/3 c. Olive Oil
1/3 c. Apple Cider Vinegar

Combine sliced cabbage, dressing and browned noodles. Stir, stir, stir and serve.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Crock Pot Turkey Meatloaf

Who loves their crock pot? Who loves meat loaf? Who loves to keep their home cool in the summer?
Me, ME, ME!!
As I've said before I am crazy about my crock pot. I love to make recipes that are compatible with my most favorite kitchen appliance, my crock. During this warm summer season I'm always trying my hardest to keep my home cool. When you bake in the oven, that just doesn't seem to keep the temperature down. So, with my trusty crock at my side we will conquer the heat and try to keep things cool. I actually plug my crock pot in my laundry room and shut the door. This makes it so our "main room" that's attached to our kitchen doesn't scorch us to smithereens!
 This meatloaf was fabulous! It was so nice to make it in the early afternoon while the kids were sleeping so I wasn't rushing at dinner time to put food on the table. It kept the house cool and our tummies happy.

Crock Pot Turkey Meatloaf

1 lb. Ground Turkey
1/4 c. Rolled Oats
1/4 c. Dehydrated Chopped Onion
8 Saltine Crackers- smashed
1 tsp. Salt
A few Dashes of Pepper
2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 Eggs

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. In a greased crock pot place the meat mixture and shape into a loaf with your hands. Don't let the meat touch the sides of the crock pot. Spread an even layer of ketchup on top of the meat. 

Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or until middle is not pink.
Slice and serve.

Serve with our favorite Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Parmesan Herb Bread

Small loaves of scrumptious-ness. I recently had a wave of friends who just had babies and who were sick. I wanted to make something small and yummy as a kind gesture to ease the stress of families. I know that when I'm sick, I DO NOT want to cook, but we "gut-up" since our kids are crying and pour some cereal. I knew that's what my friends most likely had so I made some yummy, EASY, homemade mini loaves of bread.
This is the easiest, "no brain" bread recipe ever! I have ALWAYS been so scared to make bread, but this has changed my life! I'm going to make bread ALL THE TIME NOW! WHOO HOO! Our family took down 2 of the loaves in a matter of minutes! DELICIOUS!

Parmesan Herb Bread

1 c. Luke warm water
2 1/2 tsp. Yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs - slightly beaten
1/4 c. honey
5 T. Olive Oil  (It makes a big difference in taste)
3 1/2 c. unbleached flour  (It makes a big difference in taste)

Parmesan Cheese
Italian Herbs
Extra Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl combine water, yeast, salt, eggs, honey and oil. Mix thoroughly. When done, combine flour and mix well. Knead with your hands into a ball, and let rest for about 15 min. Knead the ball again onto a floured surface. If too sticky add more flour. 

Split the ball into 5 small oval loaves of equal size. About 1 inch thick.
Brush the tops with olive oil. 
Dash some Italian Seasonings and Parmesan cheese over the olive oil. 
Place the "herbed" loaves onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Bake at 350 for 15 min. or until tops "pop" or bottoms are golden brown.

Place on cooling racks then DIVE IN for a bite!

*This makes a GREAT easy gift!

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Italian Chicken Bacon Pasta Salad

Out of the blue your friend calls and says, "Hey! We're giving a last minute barbecue and would love to have you come! Can you bring a side to share?" You then kindly and calmly reply, "Of course! We would love to come, see you soon!" 
You hit the END button on your phone. All of a sudden you hit panic mode and start going through your recipes like a mad woman. Then all at once you realize all of your recipes take AGES to make and take a million ingredients you don't have! What are you to do? Well take a look at this! This is a DELICIOUS, light, crowd pleasing pasta salad that will make your friends barbecue a hit! Guess how many ingredients are in there, just take a guess... only 5! WHOOO HOO! You probably have all of the ingredients on hand right now! 
Make this in 20 minutes and "wow the crowd!"

Italian Chicken Bacon Pasta Salad

1 box Penne Noodles  - cooked to package directions (be sure to NOT over cook!)

2 chicken breasts 

Bacon Bits (Click HERE to see how to make your own!)

Parmesan Cheese

Italian Salad Dressing to taste 

In a pot of water cook your Penne Noodles according to the package directions. While your noodles are cooking, take your chicken breasts and cut them into cubes. Cook the chicken in a pan with 2-3 T. of olive oil. Add a few dashes of salt, garlic powder, and dry ranch seasoning. When the noodles are done cooking, drain them in a colander and rinse with COLD water. Place in a bowl and add your chicken, bacon bits (to desired amount), a few dashes of Parmesan cheese and your Italian salad dressing to taste. Stir all together and enjoy!

Want to add more to this simple salad? 
Go right ahead!

Add In's
Cheese Cubes
whatever you want!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Make Your Own Turkey Bacon Bits

Want a cheaper and healthier alternative to store bought bacon bits? Make some and taste the difference! They're DELICIOUS! We are CRAZY about turkey bacon, it is SOOO much healthier for you and has a fantastic taste and texture. Add bacon bits to your salads, soups, baked potatoes, and eggs. Check it out!

Take a package of Turkey Bacon.

Cut it all together into small cubes

Place 1-2 T. Olive oil in a pan. 
Cook your bacon cubes in the pan until crisp.

On a plate, sandwich the bacon bits between 2 paper towels to remove excess oil.

Throw on salads, in soups, potatoes, eggs, etc. 


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Monday, June 9, 2014

Marinated Pineapple Chicken Sandwich

Love grilled chicken? Well this marinated chicken sandwich will satisfy your taste buds VERY easily. Marinate your chicken in a bag over night and enjoy a flavorful dinner the next day. This is delicious by itself, but when you add in the grilled pineapple this sends the sandwich into overdrive! MMMMmmm! Delish!
I first tried this sandwich on a trip at my Aunt and Uncle's house. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I'm pretty sure I ate 3 sandwiches. I begged for the recipe and my awesome Aunt was gracious enough to give it to me. So here I am, sharing it with you! Enjoy.

Marinated Pineapple Chicken Sandwiches

(Marinate the chicken breast halves over night)
1/2 c. Lemon Juice
1/2 c. Soy Sauce
1/2 c. Oil
3 T. Ketchup
2 tsp. Ground Ginger

Sauce for the sandwiches:
1/2 c. mayo
2 tsp. Terryaki Sauce
2 tsp. Honey
2 tsp. Ground Ginger

Grill the marinated chicken and pineapple to desired "done-ness". Place on a bun with lettuce and special sauce. As an option add onion and tomato slices. DELISH!

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Fluffy Oat Pancakes

Need a hearty healthier pancake? These are AWESOME to make quickly, make a lot of, and eat on the go! We LOVED them because they're heartier and stick with you longer! I always enjoy spending one morning making lots and lots of pancakes then keeping them in the fridge to grab throughout the week on busy days. These we so good with honey and fruit!

Fluffy Oat Pancakes

-Dry Ingredients-
1 c. Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 c. Flour
1/2 c. Wheat Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
3 T. Sugar

-Wet Ingredients-
2 c. Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Eggs

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix mix mix. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes for the oats to soften. Place a scoop of batter on a greased hot pan. Cook on medium high heat until bubbles in the batter form and stop popping. Turn over with a spatula and cook on the other side. When done, top the pancakes with syrup, honey, peanut butter, fruit etc. 

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Frozen Hot Chocolate

For the past 3 years my nieces and I have been trying to recreate a "20 Below Hot Chocolate" drink we would always have in their hometown. It was a big hit in a town of 3,000 people located in a half coffee shop, half car garage. Since my sister and her family don't live there anymore we have been trying to master this drink! We have tried everything from melting chocolates, to different combinations of cocoa powder, to syrups and milks. 
I finally thought yesterday, why not keep it simple? Why not try something SO EASY, that you would think it was hard? So I did, and IT IS PERFECT! Holy delicious! 
I will be making this all summer long!

Freeze milk in ice cube trays to make MILK CUBES! 
So much creamier than (water) ice cubes!

Frozen Hot Chocolate

12 Frozen Milk Cubes (1 ice cube tray)
1/2 c. Instant Hot Cocoa Powder
3/4 c. Milk

Blend until smooth! YUMMY!

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Sugar Bread Cookie Cream Stars

Yummy yummy in our tummies! I made these Sugar Bread Cookie Cream Stars for dessert, they were wolfed down like there was no tomorrow. Whooo wee! I can't wait to make these for the 4th of July! They're easy and scrumptious! I love fresh fruit with sweet cream cheese, they were meant to be together. 

Sugar Bread Cookies

3 c. Flour
3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
Dash of salt
1 c. Applesauce
1 1/4 c. Sugar
1 egg- beaten
1 T. Milk

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. 

In a separate bowl blend together the sugar and applesauce. Add the egg and milk. Blend again. Slowly add in the flour mixture.

Roll in a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready, cut the ball in half. Place the "half ball" on a floured surface. Add flour to reduce "stickyness" if needed. Roll out with a floured rolling pin until 1/4 in' thick. Cut with a star cookie cutter.

Place the stars on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn gold.

(Repeat steps with the other half of the dough)

Sweet Cream

3/4 c. Sugar
1 1/2 pkgs. Cream Cheese (12 oz.) - room temp.
3 T. Milk
*1/4 tsp. Lemon Extract

Whip together all ingredients until smooth.
"Frost"on the sugar bread cookie stars and top with fresh blueberries and strawberry slices.

*You can leave the cream plain or add the lemon. We also tried it with Almond extract and it was AWESOME! All 3 options are great, it's just up to you and what flavor you want!

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