Brunch… a fun time to be a little “Extra”

Ever go to brunch with friends a feel like your cheating a little and feel good about it. Like maybe you slept in when you would have gotten up early all the other days of the week. Or maybe skipped breakfast so you could endulge in food that your wouldn’t normally eat but it taste simply delicious. I’ve always thought that having brunch is a chance for me to be a bit “extra” and feel great with friends or family. Take a little extra time for my meal, order a little something different and either entertain or be entertained with food, decor, and overall atmosphere.

I wanted to take a moment and share some easy and fun recipes and ideas that you can do at home if felt like hosting a brunch yourself. Fall is upon us, the weather is changing and this is a great opportunity to set up your sun room or open the windows and turn on those fans to let the air flow nicely through your home. Invite some guests over in the late morning. Set a little light jazz or easy listening in the background. Be sure to either light a fresh scented candle or diffuse some essential oils throughout to have a pleasing aroma in your home as well.

Now for the recipe ideas… I love appetizer size portions personally. You can make plenty and it offers a variety to meet the taste preferences of all your guests. My easy suggestions are as follows:

  1. Individual sized fruit and yogurt parfait – These can be super fun to do. Pop by any party store and get small (dessert serving sized) clear dishes. A layer of vanilla yogurt, a layer of strawberries (sliced and fresh), some granola and repeat. drizzle with a bit of honey if you prefer. You can make several flavors by changing the fruit and/or yogurt flavors. This allows for several options. (Peach, Blueberry, Pineapples, etc.)
  1. Muffin Tin Omelettes – These are a cinch to make and again, can have a variety of flavors. Spray your muffin tin with cooking spray, preheat your oven, and get busy with your creations. Ham, cheese, peppers the sky is the limit. One egg per muffin cup. Scramble the egg prior to pouring into the cup and mixture. I highly suggest avoiding adding onions to your omelettes when inviting guests to your social gathering. Onions often times upset sensitive stomachs and can cause people to be concerned about poor breath following a meal.
  1. Biscuits and Jelly – This is a staple! you can serve croissants or muffins or even cornbread, but some type of bread is a must. If you have the time and want to make several bread options that is always fun as well. I like to have various types of jelly available along with butter of course.
  1. Drinks! What brunch is complete without a good beverage. Mimosas are always the go-to for brunches. Depending on what time of year you are hosting your brunch, try to make your drink of choice seasonal. Of course, Coffee, Tea (Both hot and cold for brunch is desirable) and water should be made available.

These are all fun ideas and suggestions. There are so many more out there. Do a little research and plan according to the size of your guest list. The point is, have a veggie (the parfait), have a bread item (it’s breakfast after all), and have a protein (the omelette). Make sure there is variety. Remember to incorporate appropriate serving dishes, place settings and centerpieces that will help facilitate the theme and feel of your brunch. The best ones I have been to use all of the senses to make the guests have the best experience. Sight (presentation), Sound (Music), Smell (essential oils or scented candles), Taste (well prepared food), and Touch (comfortable seating and well maintained temperature). Keep it light, fun and casual. The point of hosting this brunch in your home is so that you and your friends don’t have to “dress” for the occasion. In-home brunches with friends can be Sunday casual. No T-shirts and flip-flops are probably not ideal, but you can set the tone with your invite either verbal or written. The sky is the limit with your planning and preparations.

I hope you plan an amazing event. As the host of your event (vs attending) the satisfaction comes when you sit back once the event is in full swing and you see the smiles on your friends faces, hear the chatter of small talk, and hear the clanking of glasses and your friends toast to each other.

As always my friends, have a happy day (And enjoy your brunch and each other)

What to do with all the Easter candy?

What do you with all the left over Easter candy? Make fun treats of course! Make them and share them! Ask the kids or family and friends to join in! Then send the treats to school, to work, put them out when your kids friends come over on the weekend.

Have left over Halloween candy, incorporate that into your fun treats too! Here are a few examples of fun summer treats you can easily do and share for the next few weeks. Have fun and get creative!

Peep race cars!
Ingredients: Peeps, Twinkies, Chocolate covered pretzels (don’t forget, you can melt down some left over chocolates) and mini oreos.

Cut about a 1/4 inch out of the top back half of the twinkie. enough to rest a bunny peep sitting up into the twinkie as if to drive a car. Once you have created your chocolate cover pretzel, insert it upside down in front of the bunny as of to be a steering wheel. Separate your oreos and press to the side of the twinkie to create wheels. You may need to add a little water to help make the wheels stick. You a tad to create some moisture in the area. Please the twinkie on parchment paper or a well grease pan or tray for transporting or display.


Peeps in a nest!
Ingredients: Peeps, Rice Krispie Cereal, 48 Marshmallows (large), 4 TSP Butter, small Jelly Beans, Food Coloring, Shredded Coconut, Muffin Pan, Cooking spray.

Melt butter for 45 seconds in large microwave safe bowl. Add marshmallows. Coat all with the melted butter. Melt for 45 seconds in microwave. Stir, melt for 45 seconds. Ad food coloring to the Marshmallow mixture. (I preferred Green, but any color is fun to do.) Add 6 cups of Rice Krispies. Stir. Spray the muffin pan with cooking grease. Press each pan with rice Krispies and chill. These will create your nests. After 30 mins, remove the nests from the pan. On a plate, cover with parchment paper (or tin foil or a few paper towels) spread out your shredded coconut and cover with green food coloring and mix. This will be the grass for your nest. how much food coloring will determine how dark your grass will be so start slow, you can always add more. Add the grass to each nest, then press jelly beans to each nest. I used 4-5 beans for each nest to create the eggs for the nest. Add the bird peeps to the top and display on a greased plate, try or pan. As you can see I chose a pan for ease of transportation.


CandyBar Carmel Apple Dip!
Ingredients: 12 “Fun” Size Candy Bars. (Milky Way is preferred, but twix works well too as long as caramel is involved). Use 10 for chopping and using for the dip and 2 for freezing and cutting up for the garnish, 1/2 cup of butter, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of light corn syrup, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and apples.

Melt the butting in a saucepan. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt, Cook over medium heart stirring occasionally. When the mixture comes to a full boil (10-12 mins). Cut up the apples into slices while this is happening. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and the cut of candy bars. Continue stirring until candy is dissolved and the mixture is a thick consistency. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and transfer to serving bowl. Cut up the 2 previously frozen candy bars and use for garnish, sprinkle on top of the dip. Serve with the sliced apples.

Ouch! Paper-cut! Simple solutions for small boo-boos

It’s summer and many of us have kids (or grandkids) running around and getting into all sorts of things.  Little “boo-boos” happen all the time.  Here is a great list of home remedies for the little ones in your life.  Always first assess the situation of a boo-boo.  If your child has a cut or sever pain, medical attention from a professional may be required.

Sunburns – Use Aloe Vera to soothe sunburns. It contains compounds that reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, it’s earned the name “burn plant” for being the perfect natural remedy for sunburn. Additionally, it’s a refreshing way to cool and moisturize skin during those hot summer days. SIDE NOTE: Get an ice cube tray from the dollar store and fill each cube with aloe vera gel.  When you need it, you will have the perfectly portion size for little hands.  It will melt and the coldness will help in addition to the aloe’s healing qualities. NOTE ABOUT BURNS IN GENERAL: Don’t apply butter or other oily substances to the burned area, and if blisters form, don’t break them- both of these things can cause further damage to the sensitive area. Encourage kids not to peel skin resulting from the burn to reduce scarring.

Insect Bites – A baking soda paste can soothe the pain from bee stings and itchiness from insect bites. Baking soda neutralizes the acidic venom from the sting. Mix up a baking soda paste by using baking soda and water. Remove the stinger and leave the paste on the sting or bite for at least 15 minutes. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub toothpaste onto your child’s bug bites to stop the itching

Bee Sting – chop up a white onion and rub one of the raw pieces on the sting site for 5 minutes. This will help to prevent infection, while also reducing pain, as it draws the poison away from the sting.

Bumps and Bruises – Epsom salt has been used for centuries as a home remedy for all sorts of minor muscle and skin pains. Epsom salt relaxes the muscles and relieves the pain from bruises.  Add 1 cup of Epsom salts to a bowl of warm water. Soak a clean towel in the water and wring it out so there is no dripping. Place the warm, moist towel on your child’s sore area. To maintain its warmth, place a hot water bottle on top of the towel. The warmth boosts the magnesium content in the body which leads to a reduction in swelling. ADDITIONAL REMEDY: Rub some vanilla extract onto a bump and your child should stay bruise-free.

Cuts and Scrapes – Apple cider vinegar contains proteins, enzymes, and germ-killing bacteria that can help fight infection. To help heal and soothe your kid’s minor cuts and scrapes, add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath. It’s also good for rashes that your kid may be prone to during the hot summer months. They may not be happy about the smell, but they’ll be happy to feel some relief.

Hives, Eczema, or just itchy skin – give your child an oatmeal bath. Grind oatmeal into a fine powder and pour into the warm running water as it fills up a bath. Let your child soak in the tub to alleviate the itching associated with these skin afflictions.

As always, have a happy day.  Stay safe this summer and have fun!

 

Snacks for the beach (or a hot day in the sun)

It’s summer time, that means road trips, days in the summer sun and fun!.  It can be expensive to get snacks while you are out and about so here are some easy and fun ideas for treats as you play.  We all work up an appetite and the summer sun can drain us.  Take advantage of a little pre-planning to pack your snacks and enjoy your day without breaking the bank.

Ranch-Seasoned Spice Crackers

INGREDIENTS:

1 ounce dry ranch seasoning mix

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

5 cups oyster crackers ( 9 oz bag)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat the oven to 250F.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, ranch seasoning mix, garlic powder and onion powder. Whisk everything together and add in the oyster crackers. Toss everything together until the crackers are coated.  Spread the crackers out onto a baking sheet.  Pop the baking sheet of crackers in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring at the 10-minute mark. Remove from the oven and let cool.  Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Chex-Mix

INGREDIENTS:

3-1/2 cups Rice Chex

3-1/2 cups Corn Chex

2 cups Wheat Chex

1 cup peanuts (you can also use 1 cup of mixed nuts)

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup bite-sized pretzels (I like the pretzel sticks broken in half)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine ingredients for Homemade Seasoned Salt in small dish then set aside.  In a very large bowl combine Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, and nuts. In a small bowl stir together butter, Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons seasoned salt garlic powder, and onion powder. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture then stir with a spatula to coat. Pour into a 11×17″ or larger baking dish then bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir in pretzels when Chex Mix is cool, then serve! Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Salt and Pepper Oven-baked Zucchini Chips

INGREDIENTS

1 large zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/8″ to 1/16″ thick

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt (recommended: kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Use convection bake setting if your oven allows.  Place sliced zucchini on paper towels and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot the tops of the zucchini with another paper towel to absorb as much moisture as possible.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place the zucchini on the pans in a single layer, making sure not to overlap.  Pour olive oil into a small bowl and lightly brush onto the zucchini.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Place in oven and bake for about 2 hours, flipping zucchini after about an hour, until zucchini is crispy and starting to brown. Start checking them at about 1-1/2 hours in as ovens can vary. Any pieces that are crispy and starting to brown should be removed.  Serve immediately!

 

 

 

Summer fun on a budget

We all love the roller coasters, concerts, and road trips during the summer, but those activities can end up costing a fortune if you aren’t careful and if you have a family of four or more that cost gets higher faster.  Tickets, Food, Gas, Souvenirs, yikes!

I wanted to take a minute and offer a few ways to save some pennies this summer and still make great memories.  We all know I love to make lists, so not to disappoint below is a list of inexpensive summer plans and additional ways to save some cash while having a blast.

  1. Summer Concerts in the park: Many cities offer free or nearly free shows in parks (especially if you live near a college town). Bring a blanket and a picnic and kick off your sandals while you enjoy the music. Bonus fun if you get up and dance with your kids!
  2. Camping: If well managed, this doesn’t have to be an expensive adventure. For starters, you can camp in your own back yard and have just as much family fun outside under the stars there as you can in a campground.  Second, plan ahead and weekday campsites are typically less expensive.  Plan food ahead and don’t forget to bring some fun (free) activities like outdoor games and challenges to keep kids having a great time. Simple meals like sandwiches don’t require cooking so no charcoal or grill supplies are required.
  3. A Day at the beach: Find your nearest waterway. It might be a river or a pond, but chances are you can find a body of water close to home that offers a chance to try out some water activities. Many water locations have recreation areas where you can rent kayaks or canoes very inexpensively. (They may even offer free usage for locals and students.) There’s plenty of fun to be had on the banks of a river. Make it a daytrip, don’t forget to pre-pack your snacks and enjoy!
  4. Get a National Park Pass: If you live near a National Park, then it’s a great idea to buy a membership pass that you can use all year. Don’t want to splurge on one? Most National Parks have very affordable one-visit passes, and some even have discount days.
  5. Free Pool Play Dates: Be sure to take advantage of your neighborhood pool, and set up play dates with friends and family. Don’t have a neighborhood pool? Set up a play date with someone who does!
  6. Free Outdoor Concerts or Movies: There are many free outdoor performances over the summer. Check your area for any, and see if you can pack a picnic to take with you. Hint: if you’re looking for a summertime date without the kids, swap a night of babysitting with a friend, and bring along a blanket with some wine and cheese. Kick back and enjoy your free performance under the stars!
  7. Free and Cheap Store Events: Several national chain stores offer free kids’ activities throughout the year, such as building wooden projects in Lowe’s Free Build and Grow program, Home Depot’s free weekly workshops, $2 Michael’s Kids Crafting Classes, Lakeshore Learning Free Crafts for Kids, Disney Store’s Free Summer Play Days …and the list goes on and on.
  8. Be a hometown tourist: You don’t have to leave town to go on a vacation: Get to know the town you live in. Look into local landmarks, call the local historical society for some fun hometown trivia, and ask a neighbor for her favorite restaurant recommendation to try somewhere new.
  9. Volunteer your time: Volunteering teaches compassion and responsibility—it also keeps kids busy. Little ones can do plenty, like cleaning up a green space or collecting canned goods.
  10. Geocaching: This is a fun activity for all ages. There is an app to download (free).  This is a real life treasure hunt for trinkets.  Move the trinkets from location to location and log your finds and trinket status.  Add a trinket (once logged) and keep an eye on it via the website to see if your trinket is able to move across the state or country.

Extra ideas: Splash Parks, Free Bowling Nights, Free Skating Nights, Playgrounds and Parks, Local classes at Home Depot or Michaels Craft store, Storytime at a local library or bookstore, Game Nights, Bicycle Rides, the options are endless!

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