My Favorite Brunch Recipes

Recently, I wrote about my delay in closing my mother’s estate. She passed away in December 2017, and I am just now getting around to closing it. I’ve been delaying it, because it’s depressing to think about the finality of it, but I’ve decided to look at it as a positive. I am going to host a champagne brunch to celebrate the closing…something my mother would love.

I haven’t set the date yet, but as soon as I do, I will invite some friends over for brunch to celebrate with me. I’ve already been planning the menu with some of my favorite recipes. All the recipes listed can be found online; the links are included.

  • Ham-It-Up Egg Cups. hungry-girl.com. Low in calories and high in protein, these yummy egg cups are simple to make and look cute too! Plus, they promote portion control! Your guests will rave. Get the recipe at hungry-girl.com here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Hashbrown Casserole. Betty Crocker. I would go to any party if I knew hashbrown casserole was being served! This recipe is pretty easy and has a lot of flavor, but since it contains potatoes, sausage, and cheese, there is nothing low-calorie about it. Personally, I would count this as my splurge for the day and enjoy it! Get the recipe here.

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    Photo from bettycrocker.com

  •  Biscuits. Lots of southern ladies have their mother’s biscuit recipes, and they don’t share them. I have my mother’s buttermilk biscuit recipe, but it’s a no-share item. But if you want some good southern biscuits without having to start from scratch, Mary B’s Biscuits, from the Florida Panhandle, are delicious. You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store.

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    Photo from homadefoods.com

  • Fruit. You must have fruit. It’s spring, and it’s nice to have one cold item, I prefer fresh cut fruit, but I think I will make the traditional Southern Fruit Salad for my brunch. It adds a different look, and even though I never ate it when my mother served it, there must be something good about it, because it used to show up on southern tables everywhere. If you’re not from the south, you might balk at it, but try it just once! Get the recipe from Southern Living here.

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    Photo from southernliving.com

  • Dessert. I love pound cake, and my cousin gave me my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake recipe a couple of years ago. I think it’s perfect for a spring brunch, and I will serve it with a macerated-berry topping from Martha Stewart. While I’m not willing to share my grandmother’s recipe, you can make a classic pound cake from the Martha Stewart website. The recipe is here. And the recipe for the macerated-berry topping is here.mld104160_0709_scan_001_horiz
  • Beverages: Coffee, Water, Prosecco, and Aperol Spritzes. Here’s how to make an Aperol Spritz: over ice, combine equal parts Aperol liqueur and Prosecco. Add a splash of club soda and an orange slice. Drink up!aperol

After we’ve dined and enjoyed our Aperol Spritzes, we’ll have some door prizes, because Mother loved to win prizes! I’m not going to divulge those secrets till afterward. We’ll also have some take-home party favors to talk about afterward.

Mama would be proud!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shutterfly Engagement Party Ideas

Planning an engagement party this spring? Shutterfly can make it easier.

Before you plan the party, think about the effort that goes into planning the actual wedding. Then, take a deep breath and thank the Lord the engagement party is easier to plan! Unfortunately, though, we can’t just twinkle our noses or flip our ponytails and make a party happen…it takes thought, time, and planning.

There are lots of details, but one thing’s for sure…millenials love photo opportunities. With the invention of the smart phone, everyone takes photos of everything, and parties are special photo opportunities. They want them to be cute. They want them to be fun. And they want their pictures to be perfectly shareable…with their own hashtag, no less. Shutterfly can help.

In 2003, when I had a baby, I discovered Shutterfly.com was the perfect place to store and print my photos and photo gifts, and I haven’t stopped using them since. Shutterfly was great for my baby pictures, but recently, someone told me about something else they offer: printable engagement photo prop ideas and photo shoot tips. With this, the site offers lots of fun props and lots of fun ideas, as well, to turn your engagement party into the perfect photo op for friends and family. The printable props they offer come in a variety of styles, from vintage to fun to rustic…even fairytale style!

You can see their printable engagement party photo props here.

 

And Shutterfly is great for even more for the engagement party. You’re going to need invitations. The bride and groom will send you the names and addresses of friends and family, but you’ll need to pick an invitation, have it printed, and send it out. Shutterfly offers lots of ideas for that, as well. They offer a wide array of engagement party invitations, some that include photos, but some that don’t, as well, making it easy for you to choose what you want and order them online.

You might even find some personalized party favors for your guests on the site. Shutterfly offers party favors starting at $5.00 for a personalized bottle opener…could be popular with the young couple’s friends!

But one of my favorite things offered by Shutterfly is their page dedicated to Ideas and Inspirations, which is dedicated to helping the consumer with party planning, decorating ideas, and more. You can see that page here. It even offers a wedding hashtag generator! Just enter the bride and groom’s names, and Shutterfly will generate hundreds of hashtag ideas for the wedding! That’s important to millennial when they share all their photos on social media. It’s pretty awesome! See the wedding hashtag generator here.

So, while it can be daunting to start preparing for and planning an engagement party, Shutterfly can make it a little easier. I’ll be using the site for any parties I plan…starting with a spring brunch at my home next month. I’m absolutely amazed at the ideas they offer.

Happy planning!

 

 

 

 

 

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Squash It

I’m no chef. I can barely even call myself a cook.

But I love reading Hungry Girl cookbooks and magazines, and I love the website, http://www.hungrygirl.com. I’ve written about the site before. I’ve learned a lot about ways to swap high-calorie/high-carb foods for lower calorie foods over the years, and one of my favorite swaps is veggie noodles.

I was slow to buy into veggie noodles. I love my pasta.

But recently, I started to question whether it’s the pasta I like or the stuff that goes with it. Red sauce? I love it. Tomatoes? I love them. Bolognese? Yes, please! I even like Alfredo sauce, but it’s not my favorite.

So I started experimenting with some of Hungry Girl’s veggie noodle ideas. For months, I ate zucchini noodles. I didn’t buy them in the grocery store. I actually purchased the zucchini and brought it home to make my own noodles. I bought a handheld veggie spiral slicer, and I stayed busy making my own zucchini noodles. The first few times I ate them, I was so proud, and I liked them…but that changed. For some reason, the zucchini noodles just didn’t do it for me. I gave up.

Then a few weeks ago, after reading some info on Hungry Girl about spaghetti squash, I went back to the grocery store and picked up a couple of spaghetti squash. I will openly admit that I had no idea what a spaghetti squash looked like. I actually had to read the labels on the produce shelves, but I found them. They look like the gourds they are. I grabbed two and brought them home. Following instructions I found online, I cut them, cleaned them, brushed on a little olive oil and sea salt, and baked them, face down, in the oven. After I took them out of the oven and scraped the “spaghetti” out of them, I knew I had found my true veggie spaghetti love.

The difference in the zucchini and the spaghetti squash? The spaghetti squash absorbs the flavor of its pairing. The zucchini…not so much. There’s something about the texture of the zucchini that prevents it from absorbing the other flavors, but the spaghetti squash texture is perfect. It absorbs the flavor of tomatoes, onions, Alfredo sauce, red sauce, garlic…whatever I put with it! In fact, the texture of it is so perfect that I have actually fooled my teenager with it. I served it to her once with chicken, butter and sea salt, and she didn’t even realize she was eating squash instead of traditional pasta.

That is a win!

After cooking it in the oven several times, I tried cooking it in my Instant Pot. I got the directions from the Hungry Girl website here. Even before trying it, I knew it would be a little lower in calories, simply because it eliminates the need for the olive oil. I wondered how that would affect the flavor. But I wasn’t disappointed! I was thrilled! The Instant Pot method was super easy and super tasty! Hungry Girl wins again!

So now I need to get creative with the spaghetti squash. I’ve prepared it with marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, Rotel tomatoes, and even chicken/butter. Taking a look at the Hungry Girl site, I see lots of different recipes I need to add to my repertoire. Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi? Yes, please! Spaghetti Squash a la Vodka? Bring it on! To see them all, click here.

Try cooking some of them without telling your family, and see what kind of reaction you get! My super-picky teenager didn’t even turn her nose up at it!

 

 

2019 Bucket List

Lots of people have bucket lists for life. I’ve decided I’m going to have one for the year. I’m going to have one for every year. All the things might happen, and maybe they won’t, but at least I’ll have bucket list goals. These aren’t like resolutions. They don’t fall in the same category as “lose weight,” or “learn to knit.” They are one-time things…maybe places to visit, things to do, or dares…yes, dares.

Here are a few things on my bucket list for 2019:

  • Indoor Skydiving. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve done the skydiving over an outdoor wind tunnel, and it was great fun. I laughed and laughed, and my daughter and her friend laughed at how the skin on my face flapped in the wind. They did it too, but their skin didn’t flap…ahhh, youth. According to their website, IFly Charlotte is scheduled to open this spring in Concord. I’m looking forward to it! See their website here.
  • Sleep in a treehouse. A few years ago, my friend, Mary Ann, and I took our kids to Kentucky to sleep in wigwams at Wigwam Village in Cave City (see website here). In fact, Mary Ann turned 40 while we were there. Not many folks can say they turned 40 in a wigwam! This year, it would be fun to sleep in a treehouse, but the kids don’t have to go. They’re teenagers now, so they don’t want to be with us anyway. Maybe I can get Mary Ann to come up one weekend and go with me to Cherry Treesort in China Grove to stay in a treehouse. See their website here.
  • Swim with the manatees. Mary Ann has done this. In fact, there’s a manatee in Crystal River, Florida, that fell in love with her at first sight. Don’t ask me how we know he loved her…just trust me when I say he did. Hopefully, he won’t be there when I go, but just in case, I’ll take Mary Ann with me, so he will ignore me altogether. Of course, I haven’t spoken with Mary Ann about this, but I guess she knows it now. There are a few different companies that offer the opportunity to swim with the manatees. One is here.
  • Mother/daughter vacation with friends. We do this every year, but I’m keeping it on my bucket list, because I hope my friend, Jennifer, and her daughter will join us for a trip this summer. We started the new year together in LA, but I’m counting that as last year’s mother/daughter trip. We’ve been talking about what we can do, but we haven’t locked in reservations anywhere yet. Coming soon…
  • Big vacation somewhere new. I have a destination in mind, but since I’m not sure we will find the time to do it this year, I’m not going to name the place. It will take a lot of planning, and since a lot of summer is already planned, we might have to wait till summer 2020 for the trip I have in mind. If we can’t do that one, I’ll plan something else for a new destination this summer, but we are definitely doing something different. Fingers crossed. I’m looking at lots of websites for possible destinations, in case my first choice doesn’t play out. Some websites are Conde Nast Traveler for worldwide destinations and Forbes for US destinations.
  • Take a day off. I used to be really good at this. Every school year, I would designate a weekday that would be my day…no volunteering, no obligations, no doctor appointments, no hair appointments…just a day to do what I want to do. And it was awesome. I’m re-instating that plan right now, and my day off for the rest of this school year is Thursday. People used to think I was crazy when I first started telling them I took a day off, but then they realized it was genius. In fact, I was talking with a friend recently who said she is doing the same thing in 2019. Because I plan a day off in advance, it makes it easy to plan lunches or coffees with friends…something else I plan to do more of in 2019…time with good friends.

And that’s it. Nothing earth shattering. Just a few fun things I want to do in 2019…and maybe some ideas for you. They’re not resolutions. They are simply things I want to do. Well, maybe that last one about a “day off” is more of a resolution. Either way, these are things that will make 2019 more fun, and sometimes, I just want to have fun!

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Holiday Parties

December is rapidly approaching, and with it, holiday parties! I love when folks get creative with parties, so I’m going to share some of the best party ideas/themes I’ve come across over the years. I love holiday fun!

  • Holiday Cookie Swap. This one is old school, and almost everyone has heard of it, but because it’s fun, I’m starting with it. If you aren’t familiar with it, it works like this: Plan to have between eight and sixteen guests, and ask them to bring three dozen of their favorite homemade cookies on a platter. Serve finger foods and beverages of your choice. After visiting for a while, have everyone two or three of each type of cookie and put them on paper plates (divided by you), because their platters will be on the table till they are ready to leave. So easy and so fun, and everyone gets to take home lots of cookies! I also think it’s fun to have prize drawing for small prizes like fun cocktail napkins or tea towels. See some at Swoozie’s here.
  • Ornament Exchange. A fun, holiday-themed party, this one is super easy too. Have guests bring wrapped ornaments to put under the tree when they arrive. Serve finger foods and beverages, and maybe play a game like “Who’s Most Likely To…” if everyone knows each other. Have guests draw numbers from a hat, and whoever gets number one starts picking an ornament to take home. Remember, they’re wrapped, so they can’t see the ornament they’re getting till everyone picks one, and they are unwrapped! Anthropologie has some cute ornaments. Shop them here.

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  • My Favorites Party. A friend told me about this recently. Everyone brings a gift valued at $25 or less. One of their favorite things, and it can be anything…soap, candle, earbuds, beanie…anything you like. Again, it needs to be wrapped. It works the same way as the Ornament Exchange by drawing numbers to decide the picking order. Serve finger foods and beverages. As a host, I would want to have four or five of my own favorite things to give away in a prize drawing.
  • Gingerbread House Party. It sounds like something kids do, but moms can build them too! It’s OK to use the pre-fab kits or put the houses together before the guests arrive. That way everyone just does the fun part…decorating the houses! Of course, serve finger foods and beverages. At the end of the night, the guests take home their creations! You can purchase pre-fab kits for $9.99 each from Target here.

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  • Christmas Show PJ Party. I don’t know about your kids, but my daughter doesn’t enjoy the Christmas shows I watched when I was a little girl. My friends do, though! For this party, invite friends to show up in their pajamas and watch shows you’ve downloaded on your DVR or something from Amazon Prime. It can be a few old shows like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, or maybe a Christmas movie you love like Miracle on 34th Street. Serve popcorn and candy and fun beverages! It’s a great thing to do with good friends.

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Maybe you have some other ideas! If so, please share them! I’m always looking for something fun to do during the holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

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Parents’ School Year Goals?

Looking through “the Facebook” today, I came across a friend’s post asking, “Parents, what are your goals for this school year?”

Am I supposed to have school year goals? I’d never considered it, but maybe I’ve been missing out on something. Maybe, while teachers and students are setting goals for the new school year, I should be setting some goals of my own. I’ve asked other friends, and they looked at me like I had fourteen eyes. One of them said she has one goal: drink more wine. Another one said her goal is to keep her children organized for the school year. I told her, “Good luck with that.” I’m not a terribly organized person, so personally, I’d probably hurt my daughter’s organizational skills rather than helping them.

So, after talking with friends, I decided to make my own list of goals for the school year, and they are goals for me, not my daughter:

  • Family time. My first goal is to make sure we carve out some family time. Between school sports, school, real life, and social lives, this can get neglected. This school year, I will make it a priority…to make sure we have time to just be together…maybe dinnertime, maybe watching sports together, maybe vacations…whatever…I will make it happen.
  • Have fun. This is always at the top of my list. No matter what we are doing, we can make it fun. That doesn’t mean we don’t take things seriously; it means we approach it with joy. I’ll use my library volunteer job as an example. I volunteer every other Tuesday, and the job entails checking out books for students, shelving, reloading paper in printers, etc. Sounds boring, right? And I’m sure it can be, but it has always been fun for me. I look forward to it every time, because I became friends with the people who work there, and it’s always fun to spend time with friends. There’s nothing wrong with sharing jokes or life stories while you work! I try to become friends with people in my volunteer positions, so it feels like I’m hanging out with friends while we’re working.
  • Enjoy lunch with friend(s) at least once a week, and once a month, I need to try a restaurant in town I’ve never visited. My friend, Linda, and I meet regularly, and we tend to meet at the same four or five places. Next time, we are going to a new place, and I’ve found the perfect place for us to try. It’s easy to keep going to the same places, and I won’t abandon those, but if I try a new restaurant once a month, that’s twelve new lunch places in a year!
  • Laugh a lot…a whole lot. At the risk of sounding like a song from Mary Poppins, I love to laugh! Really…it’s one of my favorite things to do. I grew up with a brother who loves to laugh and naturally makes people laugh, so I’ve had a lot of laughing practice. It cures a lot of ills. Therefore, I’m going to try to keep myself out of non-laughing situations.
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  • Spend time outdoors…all year. I love being outdoors. I love sunshine. I don’t love camping, so don’t get any ideas about that. In spring, summer, and fall, this doesn’t take much effort. But winter? That’s another story. It’s exactly when I need to get outdoors…to avoid SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder…or what I call the wintertime blues. So this year, I am going to try to spend some time outdoors even when it’s cold. Brrrr.
  • Make some new friends. We have some new families coming to our school this year, and I plan to welcome them with open arms. You never know where you’ll find a friend…and I love fun, new friends…especially ones who like to try new restaurants and laugh a lot.
  • Travel when we can. High school means lots more time spent on homework, and it means lots more time dedicated to school sports. Whenever we can squeeze in some travel fun, we will do exactly that.
  • Exercise more. OK, I had to throw in one of those things that is a “must do.” I need to exercise more, so I added it to the list. If I can find people who want to laugh with me while exercising, that’s even better!
  • Watch more football. Yes, I’m putting it on the list. I watch a lot of football anyway, but I want to watch more. Don’t worry, Bama fans, because I am Schleprock, I will not watch Bama games in real time. I will record them and watch them after the fact. But I want to watch other games…a lot. Besides, this is a good way to fulfill the first goal I listed…spending time with family. How many more days till football season starts?

And those, my friends, are my back-to-school goals…nothing education-related at all. Sure, I could make my goals all about my child, who is now a high school student, but guess what…school is her job. Yes, if she asks me for help or I think she’s having issues, I will help her, of course. She knows that. But she also knows it is her responsibility to take care of school work. After all, I’ve already done 9th grade. It’s a lot more difficult than when I was in school, but she knows I will help her if she needs it, and she knows if I can’t help her, I will help her find someone who can. The one school-related thing I will do is continue to encourage her to establish relationships with her teachers…they can definitely help her if she needs help.

Let’s get this party started!

My Favorite Simple Summer Sandwiches

Sometimes I just want a sandwich…makes an easy snack or even a meal…no standing over a hot stove in summertime.

A personal favorite is the tomato sandwich…only good in summer…and only good with homegrown tomatoes ripened on the vine. Grocery store tomatoes may be beautiful on the outside, but rarely on the inside…hard and yellow…no thanks. The perfect tomato sandwich is made with white bread and has slices of vine-ripened, red tomatoes with Duke’s Mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper.

My daddy loved tomato sandwiches, but he also loved banana sandwiches and pineapple sandwiches. I’m not a fan of either. Actually I’ve never eaten either, but white bread + mayo + pineapples/bananas…just doesn’t sound good to me. I have cousins who love them, though.

Daddy loved peanut butter, but he liked Peter Pan brand. I prefer Jif. Remember “Choosy Mothers Choose Jif”? I could likely live on PB and bread. There are some other spreads that work well with PB, though…jelly is one. But I love Marshmallow Fluff brand marshmallow creme on peanut butter sandwiches. It’s called a Fluffernutter. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. You can see a Fluffernutter commercial here. My friend, Lisa, who lives in Luxembourg, claims I caused her to gain ten pounds after introducing her to Fluffernutters. Using white bread…put peanut butter on a slice of bread, and put Fluff on the other, mash together, and voila! The Fluffernutter! While peanut butter has nutritional value, Fluff has absolutely none.

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For years, airlines have handed out packets of Biscoff Cookies, and I’ve always loved their crunchy, caramelized flavor, so when I heard they made Cookie Butter, I was all over that! My college friend, Beth, introduced me to it. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it. Add that smooth caramelized cookie butter to a peanut butter sandwich, and it takes on a whole new flavor. It’s a flavor that will keep you coming back for more. They make a creamy version and a crunch version. You can purchase it in Target or order online here.lb150816_1.png

There is one more flavor I love with peanut butter: maple. It’s not just for winter anymore. You can purchase maple butter/cream and add that to a peanut butter sandwich. I love pure maple flavor. I used to order maple candies/cookies them all the time but had to stop, because well, sugar. I couldn’t eat them in moderation. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of ordering separate maple butter or cream, Jif makes a Maple Flavored Peanut Butter that is really good too. I used to purchase it in the grocery store, but I haven’t been able to find it for a while, so I ordered it through Amazon. I had to order it in an 8-pack, but I know we (I) will eat it. You can purchase it here.

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It’s not just sweet flavors I like. I also love pimiento cheese spread. There are different spellings…some spell it “pimento”…but oh, how I love it. My mother used to make it  when I was a little girl, and I would help her, but back then, I didn’t want to eat it. As an adult, I love pimiento cheese spread. In the south, we pronounce it “pimenna cheese,” and I’ve even seen it on a menu spelled that way at Smashburger in Atlanta. I have a good recipe, but it’s labor intensive. There are so many good brands of pimiento cheese sold in stores now, so I just buy it. My personal favorite is Palmetto Cheese from Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, and I really love their jalapeño flavor. My friend, Linda, loves the Harris Teeter brand, and I have another friend who loves Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese. Yet another friend tells me Augusta’s is her brand of choice…apparently, they make the famous pimento cheese sandwich for the Master’s in Augusta, Georgia. You can make a sandwich with just bread and pimiento cheese spread or add it to white bread with homegrown tomato slices and cook it like a grilled cheese sandwich…it’s what dreams are made of. All those brands, except the Harris Teeter brand, can be purchased at Reid’s Fine Foods in Myers Park in Charlotte or at their South Park location.

 

***A friend reminded me of the delicious pimento cheese spread at Zoe’s Kitchen restaurants. I love it, especially on their grilled sandwich.*** See their website here.

And then there’s my favorite chicken salad that can be “spread” onto a sandwich. I make my own, and it’s super easy and healthy. I simply stir together some canned chicken (yes, canned…drain off the water) with a little Duke’s Mayo, some mustard, and some dill relish, adding some salt, pepper, and a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. It turns out delicious every time. It makes great sandwiches or cracker toppers, or you can eat a scoop of it over a bed of lettuce. MmmmMmmm good.

***If you don’t want to make your own, the chicken salad at Chicken Salad Chick is fabulous!***

In fact, I could put all these different spreads on a scheduled rotation and enjoy a different sandwich every day.

Maybe I will! Fluffernutter, anyone?