Friday, May 22, 2015

Silk Soymilk Protein Smoothies!


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


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!

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 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...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Farmers' Markets - Let's Go Shopping!

Right now is the best time to visit farmers’ markets: They’re alive with their biggest bounty of fresh produce—gloriously juicy, crisp, and fragrant. These green markets do more than supply us with colorful fruits and vegetables; they reflect and shape our culture, reinforcing our community spirit and connecting us on a grassroots level to the people who grow the food we feed our families. And that, by extension, inspires us to be better cooks.

Thanks to my friends at Cooking Light, they've got quite a few tips, tricks and great resources available for all those who can't wait to hit the farmers markets this season! I've highlighted three articles I found super helpful and informative - hopefully you'll learn something new and keep these tips in mind for your next farmers market visit!

Here in Chicago and surrounding suburbs, there are plenty of farmers markets to visit throughout the week. Click on the link above to find some of the top farmers' markets in each state, offering a bounty of fresh produce and local foodstuff in your area!

Before you hit the market with your basket and eco-friendly bags, here are 7 tips to note... and be sure to click the link above for details on why these tips are good to know prior to shopping!

1. Time your visit accordingly.
2. Survey the market before purchasing anything.
3. Exercise restraint, but plan to splurge.
4. Sense the {produce} season.
5. Meet the farmers!
6. Try a sample of meats before buying a haul.
7. Taste for quality.

Take note of the tips below... you just might shop a bit differently to ensure freshness of what you buy! Don't forget to click the link above for additional information on why these tips work...

1. Buy sweet corn in the morning
2. Store peaches upside down
3. Looking for a yellow spot on watermelons to check for ripeness
4. Don't store basil in the refridgerator
5. Keep cucumbers at room temperature

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May Fun Foodie & Family Finds!

It's almost the end of May and this month, I've got a few fun foodie finds to share! From some great eats, kitchen tools and some things for the house... hopefully you'll take note and check them out for yourselves!

Gluten free pizza are readily available... but sometimes they don't taste very good. When I learned about Russo's gluten free pizza, I was anxious to give it a try, hoping they would actually taste good and really stand out from other frozen GF pizzas. Finally - a great GF pizza that even my family loves! We had 3 different pizzas - margherita, cheese and mulberry, all of which were excellent and full of flavor. 
Chef Anthony Russo, owner of Russo’s NY Pizzeria with over 30 locations in and out of the U.S., understands that gluten-free pizza has gotten the reputation of tasting like cardboard.  Therefore, he spent 2 years cultivating the recipe for this pizza (incorporating olive oil directly from Sicily) in order to provide a delicious frozen pizza option for gluten-free eaters.
Each of the pizzas are made from scratch with the chef’s signature recipe that he cultivated over a span of 2 years. The sauces are made from scratch as well and the cheese is 100% Wisconsin mozzarella. The olive oil used is directly from Sicily and all ingredients are hand-topped before packaging. The pizzas also contain zero trans-fat and are even certified organic. There are a total of 11 pizza flavors ranging from vegetarian friendly kale & artichoke pizza to Southwest inspired beef fajita pizza. Currently Russo'z pizza are distrubuted in over 2,000 grocery stores nationwide... and if you're in the Chicagoland area, you can find them at Mariano's and Sunset Foods grocery stores.

From the heart of Texas comes a pecan pie that's lavished with rich, roasted, crunchy native pecans - our "Deep Dish Pecan Pie". Generous helpings of tender pecans, hand-picked from Texas native pecan groves, give this pie a distinctively mellow taste. Its caramel-flavored custard filling is made from whole, farm-fresh eggs. A light, flaky, buttery crust rounds out this deep-dish pecan pie classic. Delivered in it's own unique tin. We love the richness of the pie and a little goes a long way... and it's even better with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream!

You can never have too many silicone spatulas in the kitchen! Aqua blue is one of my most favorite colors so I loved these spatulas off the bat. Made out of 100% food grade silicone, it's FDA approved and BPA free  And because it's silicone, these spatulas are heat resistant up to 500°F. It has an ergonomic design for comfortable grip with a perfect weight and balance throughout the one piece... this means the spatula head won't pop off and there's no cracks or creases for bacteria to grow. I have several spatulas and every kitchen needs one for mixing, folding, spreading, scraping, flipping, even serving! Another bonus is that these spatulas are dishwasher safe, easy to clean and even stain/odor resistant. These are definitely my favorite spatulas in the kitchen!
These labels are great for an added addition to any party! Included are 30 stickers and you can choose which design you would like - there's so many to choose from to fit whatever theme your party may be. I used these blue striped labels for my recent bridal shower which included our names and wedding date. We got so many compliments that I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of our custom labels!

Silicone baking cups are used for more than your typical cupcakes and muffins. They also make great servingware for kids! These silicone baking cups are vibrant in color and come in six festive colors. I've used them to serve ice cream candies, jello and they also make great kiddie snack bowls. I love that they are reusable so I don't have to deal with paper waste and they are non-stick too. They also clean up quick and easy in the dishwasher. 

If you like heat and spice, this is a subscription box for you! Heck  That's Hot, LLC.  is a monthly subscription company that deals with salsa, hot sauce and spicy snacks and foods. Customers get a different box of products every month filled with some gourmet and some nationwide brands, just a big variety of products.  They include things like chips, nuts, candy, dip mixes, pickles, BBQ sauce, hot wing sauce, salsa and hot sauce.  The subscription boxes are sent monthly for one price, free shipping, and they recur unless the customer cancels his/her account. The box itself will have 7-8 items in it for you to try and could include a jar of salsa, a bottle of hot sauce, a spicy dip mix, a snack bar, peanuts, chips, chocolate, etc.  All items will be spicy and some will be either habanero or jalapeno.  They will be in varying degrees from mild to XXX hot. So if you know someone who loves to get their heat, this would make a great gift!
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