Friday, May 29, 2015

Bacon & Blue Cheese Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy

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One of our favorite cheeses is blue cheese and we especially like it with bacon. (Who doesn't love bacon?!). I had some ground beef to use up and realized it's been awhile since we had a good, comforting meatloaf. So with some of our favorite cheese and leftover bacon from breakfast, this Bacon & Blue Cheese Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy soon became a delicious reality. A blend of ground meats with BBQ sauce, blue cheese and crumbled bacon gets formed into a loaf and baked. If that wasn't enough, the rich mushroom gravy puts it over the top!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sullivan's Steakhouse: The Patrón Tequila Dinner

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With the start of summer just around the corner, we’re looking ahead to warmer days with a little help from Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Lincolnshire, a favorite neighborhood restaurant known for its hand cut steaks and award-winning wine list.

I recently took part in a special dinner where Sullivan’s took us to the south-of-the-border for The Patrón Tequila Dinner. The delicious four-course meal served came with Patrón pairings to put the whole event over the top! But first, here's a great video on how Patrón Tequila is made...


We kicked off the night with a Patrón Silver Margarita. This seriously was the smoothest margarita I've ever had! It was light, refreshing and was just like the perfect limeade with a slight kick, I could have easily drank quite a few of these with no problem... but there was so much more to enjoy for the dinner..,


The first course were these Pork Belly Tacos al Pastor with quick pickled shaved cabbage and pineapple cilantro pico paired with Roca Patrón Silver


Course two featured Roca Patrón Reposado alongside a Pepperjack Tamale with corn elote, jicama and lime agave vinaigrette.

Course three was a Cocoa Braised Beef Shortrib with black bean rice, charred green onions and mole negro braising jus served with Roca Patrón Anejo


Finally,  we finished up the night with a Mexican classic, Tres Leches Cake with a drink of Patrón XO Raspberry Mocha to top it off.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Krusteaz Baker's Dozen 2.0!

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After a working so closely with Krusteaz Baking Mixes since last September, I'm honored to continue my delicious partnership as a Krusteaz Baker's Dozen Brand Ambassador! The past several months I've had the pleasure to create some easy and tasty recipes using their large selection of baking mixes. From sweet baked goods to savory meal ideas, the recipe ideas and possibilities are endless. That said, I'm excited to continue sharing recipe ideas using their evolving product line.  

Many folks think baking is primarily done during the fall and winter, coinciding with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But there's no need to limit yourself to baking only in the fall! I'm a firm believer that baking should be an all year round activity... besides, wouldn't you want those delicious baking smells wafting in your kitchen all the time anyway?!

With spring in it's prime and the summer on the horizon, Krusteaz has some great products available to brighten up both sweet and savory tables. How about celebrating spring with...






Stay tuned as I'll be using one of the above products to create a spring inspired recipe both on our site and at Krusteaz. Be sure to check out my fellow baking friends too! It's going to be a fun and delicious adventure so be sure to visit while I'll be sharing my cooking and baking experiences in the kitchen using Krusteaz products, offering giveaways and creating delicious recipe ideas throughout the next several months!

Disclosure: I have been chosen by Krusteaz to be a paid brand ambassador. All opinions written are my own.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Silk Soymilk Protein Smoothies!

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It's crazy how quickly the time is flying by when a wedding is on the horizon! For the past few months I've been adjusting to a lifestyle change to get out of holiday hibernation mode (ie: laziness) and get back into shape. It wasn't so much for the upcoming wedding, but rather to just take a more healthy and active approach since I haven't been as active as I'd like to be.

One of the things I've done was adjust what I eat, drink and incorporate more exercise. An easy way for me to get into a healthier mindset was to start my day with a protein-packed fruit smoothie. I used to use 2% milk to make my fruit smoothies but I recently started using original Silk Soymilk to make my smoothies! For additional sweetness and flavor, I also like using Silk Vanilla Soymilk too. There are also a few other Silk Soymilk flavors for more options.

Who knew? No other dairy-free milk gives me more protein and with 8 grams of heart-healthy,plant-powered protein and a smooth delicious taste, Silk Original Soymilk was a delicious way to start my morning right. A bonus is that it's also naturally low in saturated fat and has no cholesterol! Check out this link on where you can get Silk Soymillk in your area.

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cowboy Joel's 5th Birthday on the Farm

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It can't be true but it is. My little boy is growing fast and how he turned 5 years old so quickly is beyond me. Joel turned 5 years old earlier this month and we celebrated with family and friends this past weekend. The party served a dual purpose, in that it was Joel's opportunity to say thank you to his teachers and classmates he's grown with over the past year as he had his last day at preschool last Friday. Overall, it was quite a fun event, not just for the kids but for adults too!


When I asked Joel what kind of birthday party he wanted this year, he said that he wanted to have a cowboy party. This mom wasn't going to argue, so a cowboy party it is! But how to do I even begin to plan one lol? First, I wanted to find the perfect venue. I'm a big advocate for having a birthday party elsewhere and not at home. Part of the reason is because I want Joel and his party guests to have an memorable experience without having to clean our house more than I need to! That said, I figured cowboys would be in their natural state on a farm. Luckily, there is a nearby farm that's available for birthday party rentals... score! We booked Patch 22 for a 2 hour party and it was an amazing time. The party included a decorated barn space with tables and chairs, petting zoo, ponies to ride and a hayride for our guests.


I found these cute invitations via Etsy store, Doodles, Dots & Dimples. With a very quick turnaround time, I was able to have these printed at our local Walgreens. Joel really got into the whole cowboy theme and they came out great!


Another find on Etsy was Joel's birthday shirt from Zoey's Attic. It's become a tradition now that with every birthday theme we have, a shirt must go with it! As guests arrived, Joel greeted them and I was thrilled to see how many kids and adults came in cowboy western wear. They had so much fun dressing up and it really added to the whole feel of the party folks were sporting cowboy hats, cowboy boots and every so often, we'd hear a 'Yahoo!' Even my parents got into the spirit with their cowboy hats. My dad sported this hat like a boss...


As folks arrived, we had them get down on the farm by checking out the farm animals at the petting zoo and enjoying the ponie rides. They were having so much fun!


Now you'd think gathering folks up would be hard to do, considering how spread out everyone is with the various spots for kids to explore. That's when my little cowbell came in handy! This thing worked like a charm and once Joel or I rang it, folks came into the barn. I may have to continue using it whenever I'm out in large spaces to gather up people lol. Once folks got into the party barn, it was time to eat!


Since the party barn was already decorated, I didn't have to worry about getting additional decorations. My main focus for the party was to come up with a great spread that could be enjoyed by both kids and adults. Joel has a lot of favorite foods so I used a list of foods he provided me as a starting point. It's amazing how Joel can eat his weight in macaroni and cheese alone lol. He also loves his share of chicken tenders. One of Joel's favorite summertime treats is corn on the cob. His grandparents {my parents} were visiting from Philippines and he's been having his fill of vegetable eggrolls. And very much like his {step}grandpa, he is a huge fan of Frito Scoops chips. Joel also has been all about fresh fruit, especially strawberries, lately too. All these items found themselves on our party menu below:


Buffalo Chicken Dip served with celery sticks, carrot sticks and Frito Scoops
Cowboy Caviar {aka black bean & corn salsa} served with Frito Scoops
Farmers Creamy Coleslaw
Buttered Super Sweet Corn on the Cob
Vegetable Eggrolls
Chicken Tenders
Macaroni & Cheese
Sloppy Cowboy Joe Sliders
Fresh Fruit Salad
Assorted Cookie Platters
Sparkling Strawberry Lemon Kiddie Cocktail




With the menu set, the next thing Joel wanted was a cake that captured the theme. I was working late hours the weeks leading up to his birthday party so I failed to really plan the cake in advance. As a result, I ended up going to a local grocery store and found a cake design that best fit his theme. Actually, it was probably the ONLY cake design that could work. So I went with it. We got a small cake and some cupcakes for the party. Thankfully Joel loved it (phew!) and I was really happy everyone enjoyed the cake and decor used for it.




I was sure the kids would reach for the cupcakes... but I was so wrong! Most, if not all the kids a piece of cake to eat with a fork. It worked out great as the adults happily devoured the cupcakes without dealing with utensils.


After the kids got their sugar rush, it was time for a hayride. Everyone loaded up on the large tractor hayride and enjoyed the leisurely drive through the countryside. I didn't go on the hayride because I was back at the party barn cleaning up. But when everyone came back, they all said I missed Joel's little "speech". Apparently, he exclaimed, "This is the BEST birthday EVER! Thank you everyone for coming to my birthday party!" Ah... Joel made this mama proud! I wished I was there to witness his joy but it means so much that he did it on his own without any prompting from me...



Once everyone got back from their hayride, Joel and his friends made a mad dash to his gifts. That's when chaos ensued. My idea of opening the gifts one at a time and carefully jotting notes of what gifts he received and from who basically got thrown to the wind lol...


And slowly the excitement and fun for the afternoon eventually calmed a bit. The kids started to grow tired, exhausted but smiling from all the farm fun they had. As our guests left, we all sent them home with some treats... a little goodie bag of s'mores mix {Golden Grahams cereal,chocolate chips and mini marshmallows}...


As we said our farewells to our family and friends, it wasn't long before my lil cowboy tipped his hat and took a nap lol. This birthday theme was so much fun and I can't wait to see what Joel will choose for his birthday next year!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Memorial Day: Burger Brigade!

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Memorial Day Holiday Weekend is almost here! Who else is anxious for the first major holiday of the year? For us, we're big fans of grilling during Memorial Day weekend... and our favorite thing to grill are burgers. Speaking of which, have you noticed how many burger places are popping up? There has been a definite increase in burger sales last year as a result of new and updated burger fast food chains all around the country. And because May is National Burger Month, I came across some fun fast food burger info based on a poll conducted by Ranker.com. Below are the results of the poll which closed on May 11th and the poll included 46 fast food burger spots for consumers to rank. The Top 10 as determined by over to 42,000 votes are as follows:

1. In-N-Out Double Double

2. Five Guys Hamburger

3. Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger

4. Whataburger Original Whataburger

5. Burger King Whopper

6. Wendy’s Baconator

7. Fuddruckers The Original Fudds

8. Wendy’s ¼ LB Single

9. Steak ‘n Shake Double ‘n Cheese Steakburger

10. Fatburger Burger


While In-N-Out, Five Guys and Wendy’s dominated the Top 10 overall, Ranker’s poll also reveals:

· Men’s top choice is Five Guys Hamburger and also voted the Burger King Whopper in their Top 3.

· Women chose the In-N-Out Double Double as their top choice and also ranked the Wendy’s Baconator in their Top 3.

· Millennials #1 choice was the Wendy’s Baconator. They were the only group to also vote the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese and the McDonald’s Big Mac in their Top 5.

· While the In-N-Out Double Double was #1 for West Coasters, Fatburger’s Burger and Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger followed close behind.

· Midwesterners #1 choice was Culvers Butter Burger.

· Southerners top pick was the Whataburger Original.

· Northeasterners voted Five Guys Hamburger #1 and also voted White Castle Sliders in their top 3.


Now that we know how the country feels about their burger preferences and where to get them, here's a round up of some of our favorite burger recipes! What is your favorite burger you may be enjoying this Memorial Day holiday?!

Bratwurst Burgers on a Pretzel Bun

Get a taste of Germany with a seasoned bratwurst patty
served with sauerkraut on a pretzel bun...

L.A. Burgers

These L.A. Burgers pay tribute to the sunny California flavors but
you don't need to be from California or Los Angeles to appreciate these!...

Big Mac Burgers

Recreating a fast food burger never tasted so delicious...

Provolone cheese, a mixture of caramelized sweet red onion and 
a melange of sauteed bell peppers gives this burger props to the Philly cheesesteak.

With every bite, you get caramelized mushrooms and onions, tender veal, 
cool lettuce, juicy tomato and a creamy pesto mayo to tie it all together...

Turkey Cobb Burger

All the best parts of a cobb salad sit atop a flavorful turkey patty 
to pay homage to a favorite salad...

Topped with sliced avocado, sweet red onions, chopped lettuce and 
pepper jack cheese, these burgers capture the deliciousness of California...

Topped with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes and bright basil leaves, 
this make sthis such a satisfying burger all in itself. 

A savory garlicky butter adds a whole new dimension of flavor to a classic burger...

hick and juicy beef patties are studded with crumbled blue cheese, fresh parsley, and a caramelized onions with a topping of sautéed mushrooms on a buttery brioche bun...

Oklahoma Fried Onion Burgers

These burgers have caramelized onions formed right into the patty, 
making it especially delicious, flavorful and juicy... 

These burgers had a delicious cheesy surprise in the middle 
that will have any cheeseburger fan raving...

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