George’s 1st Birthday

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It’s been a few days out and I havent’ taken down those dots. They add a bit of color to the otherwise drab, leafless trees outside my window!

My little guy turned one this week and over the weekend we had a small party to celebrate the special occasion. When thinking of what “theme” I wanted to do for his party, I knew I didn’t want to do anything that we’ll no doubt do in the future. No trucks, planes, or dinosaurs here. I wanted it to be fun and cheerful, just like him. I also wanted it to be relatively simple. I wanted to spend more time with my kids before and during the day of the celebration, and not crafting up a storm.

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I am so happy with the end results of his party. It was so much fun. The food was simple and I brought back some favorites. The decorations were vibrant, yet not over the top. The cake was a lot of fun to make and I opted for a new recipe that I’ll be sharing soon. The most important thing was that I got to enjoy this sweet milestone with my little man. *Sigh* My little man is growing up. This year went by so fast and we adjusted to being a family of four. My kids keeping me on my toes, but for his party and on his birthday, I made sure to slow things down a little and soak in every precious moment.

So, here’s my George’s birthday party. I hope you enjoy browsing. I have the details below, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. I opted for some heavy, warm appetizers and snacks to keep things easy. Since it’s a week out from Thanksgiving, I made sure not to have anything that would also be served at that gathering.

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The Food

Crab Rangoon Tartlettes

Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Palmiers

Stuffed Mini Sweet Bell Peppers

Apple Jalapeno Cocktail Meatballs

Queso & Chips

Crudites & Ranch Dressing

Chips & Pan Fried Onion Dip

Ice Cream ~ Vanilla Bean, Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate

Cake ~ Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream and Marshmallow Fondant

 

Extras

Invitations from Petite Lemon, Thank you cards from Garner Studios

Polka dots made by me with a 3″ hole punch, string, and tacky glue

Happy Birthday sign from Target

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It’s that time of year where we’re all gearing up for the holidays which means decorating, shopping for presents, and menu planning! Sometimes, menu planning can be the most cumbersome of them all. If you’re like me, you want to try out new things while keeping some of the favorites, please everyone, and have a wonderful dinner with little effort so you can spend time with your loved ones.

I don’t have much experience with the classic green bean casserole. It was never served at any of my family holiday dinners, but so many love it that I wanted to give it a try. Since so many have moaned and groaned about the classic I immediately new I wanted to revamp the recipe. I wanted to bring in some new flavors, while still keeping the essence of the classic. I also didn’t want to overdo it and create so much work in the kitchen for what is supposed to be a simple vegetable side dish. I decided to exchange the overly breaded fried onions for some crispy shallots, forgo mushrooms since no one in my household likes them and bring in bacon. Who doesn’t like bacon? It goes so well with green beans, as does almonds, it was the natural choice. Plus, the almonds, bacon, shallots, and panko give a wonderful crunch. You still have the creaminess that the mushroom soup provided, but it’s not as saturated so you really taste the green beans which are supposed to be the star of the show.

I’m really quite pleased with how this recipe has turned out (and always go back for thirds when I make it) and I hope you will be as well. It’s really pretty easy to make and some can be prepared ahead of time. Simply make your bacon and shallots the night before. You still have the ease of canned green beans, but using a good quality bean from Del Monte along with not saturating it with canned soup, yields a great flavor without the trouble of blanching and cooking the beans before you even begin. Pop the casserole in the oven while your turkey is resting and it will be ready by the time you are ready to serve your food. You’ll also see how easy it is to change up flavors. If you want to add some garlic or herbs, simply add it to the cream mixture. I prefer to keep the flavors simple since the flavors already present already work so well together.

This post was sponsored by Del Monte through their partnership with POPSUGAR Select. While I was compensated to write a post about Del Monte, all opinions are my own.

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Better With Bacon Revamped Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour, extra if using for shallots
  • 1/2 cup heavy or light cream
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 14.5oz can of Del Monte Whole Green Beans
  • 1 slice of cooked bacon, diced
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1.5 Tbsp Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 medium shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

In a small saucepan, simmer butter until melted. Add flour and stir continuously with a whisk until incorporated and cooked, about 1 minute. Add cream, cheese, salt, and pepper and continue whisking until thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a 1 qt. baking dish, add beans and bacon. Pour cream mixture of beans and gently toss. Sprinkle almonds and breadcrumbs on top and cook for about 15 minutes.

While beans are cooking, heat oil in a small pan and lightly fry shallots until golden brown, just a few seconds on each side.  Shallots can be tossed in flour, if desired, before frying for more crunch.

After beans have cooked for 15 minutes, remove from oven and top beans with shallots. Bake for an additional 2 minutes to warm shallots. Remove and serve warm.

*Bacon and shallots can be made the night before.

The Way to His Heart

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Whether I like it or not, winter is just around the corner and I’m not ready for it! It snowed last week, Mother Nature’s way of telling me to deal. The only thing I do love about cold weather is all of the comfort foods, the problem is I still need my jeans and sweaters to fit. As much as I love a good, creamy soup I don’t often make them because I’m usually the only one in my house who will eat enough of it and they don’t freeze well. Not to mention the fact that it usually involves a long day of cooking in the dutch oven. So, when I found this recipe that not only doesn’t contain cream, yet is creamy, and is ready in less than 30 minutes I was pretty happy.

I did make a couple of tweaks though. As much as I love bacon, one whole slice is just too much for a small bowl of soup, so I reduced the amount the recipe calls for. Believe me, you still get to enjoy quite a bit of bacon. I promise! Also, I reduced the onions by half. I felt that the original recipe had too strong of an onion flavor and it overshadowed the sweet potato which is supposed to be the star. By reducing it, you get a better flavor in my opinion. I’ve honestly also omitted it completely and been satisfied as well.

This is a perfect soup to offer your guests for Thanksgiving. It’s so quick and easy to make and the garnish just looks so pretty.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 2 large)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves (optional)

Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11 x 7-inch microwave-safe baking dish. Add water; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly; discard potato skins.

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 1 minute or until translucent. Stir in cumin and red pepper. Add stock to pan; bring to a boil. Place half of sweet potato and half of stock mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters); blend until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining sweet potato and stock mixture. Stir in salt. Divide soup evenly among 6 bowls; sprinkle cooked bacon and Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Adapted from Cooking Light, November 2013

Cheesy Bacon Dip

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It’s cold out now so bring on the warm, gooey foods. Okay, who am I kidding? I’d never turn down gooey foods, even if it were summer give me a gooey brownie or some cheese and I’m a happy girl. As most of you have figured out, I’m an appetizer lover and dips are my favorite. Baked dips are always the winner. My husband and I will often bake up some concoction on a weekend afternoon and sit around the kitchen while the kids are napping and dig in. This was is extra tasty and you can play around with your favorite cheeses as well. My favorite way to eat it is with bread, but I actually like to dip celery in it as well. See, I can be healthy!

Using quality ingredients are always important and will yield a better taste as we all know. So naturally, using Kerrygold cheese for one of your gooey, warm dips is really going to up the ante. Knowing where your ingredients come from is just as important as how they’ll come together in the kitchen. For over 300 days a year cow graze on lush, green Irish grass, producing a rich, sweet milk you can’t find anywhere else in the world-milk that is the key ingredient in Kerrygold salted and unsalted butters, as well as a full line of incredible tasting cheese.

I received samples from Cooking Light, courtesy of Kerrygold, but the opinions expressed here are my own. I’ve been a long fan of Kerrygold products and enjoy their butters and cheeses.

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Cheesy Bacon Dip

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • sliced green onions for garnish

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Mix all ingredients, saving some bacon and the green onions for garnish, together and pour into a baking dish. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. You can also turn on the broiler for the last minute to get some nice browning.

Serve warm with bread, chips, or some veggies.

Inspired by Crunchy Creamy Sweet