Please Drop In

Please drop in.

Maybe I should phrase that differently. Maybe I should say “please drop out.” What I mean is that we would love to have friends and family visit anytime, but only in the backyard. With the COVID pandemic, things have changed, and I don’t just let lots of folks in my house. But outside? All bets are off. If you’re in the area…or bored…or just looking for some company…come on over!

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, folks used to drop in all the time. This was well before the era of the cellphone. Back in the 70s and 80s, if we were driving down the road and decided to drop in on some friends, we couldn’t just pick up a cell phone and call. I guess we could have gone to a payphone, but often that would have taken us out of our way. Drop-ins were common. Wanna stop in and see your friend? Turn into the driveway, and walk right up and ring the doorbell!

I remember, when I was a little girl living in Brewton, Alabama, my mother had a good friend named Martha. We lived on the outskirts of town, but Martha lived right in the middle of town…on the main drag…in a big, beautiful, historic home. We visited often, because she had kids our age. One day, when I was probably five or six, I had a baby tooth that was ready to fall out. It was even starting to hurt…it needed to come out. We were driving down Belleville Avenue, the road where Martha’s house was, and Mother said, “Let’s stop and let Martha pull it. She’s really good at pulling teeth.” And without calling ahead, we drove into the driveway, right up to the porte-corchere on the side of the house, like we owned the place. Mama knocked on the door, and Martha let us into her kitchen, which I thought was beautiful, because it had yellow gingham wallpaper. Martha stood me on a chair in her kitchen and pulled that tooth right out. I can still see in my mind exactly where I was standing.

Another time, Mother was going to drop in on Martha, but when she approached the driveway in her car, she didn’t see Martha’s car in the driveway. Instead of stopping, she kept driving. Later, when they were talking on the phone, Mother told her, “I was going to drop in to your house today, but when I got there, your car wasn’t there.” Martha replied, “Well, did you come to see me or my damn car?!? I was home! You should have stopped.” Mother laughed. In fact, that was a story Mother told for years afterward.

When we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, all the neighborhood kids dropped in all the time, and Mother’s friends would often show up on the doorstep. They would sit in the kitchen and drink coffee. And sometimes they talked for hours…solving all the world’s problems, I’m sure. Or maybe just talking about soap operas.

I vividly remember neighborhood moms standing around talking in the driveway. Back then, everybody didn’t have a garage with a garage door opener. We didn’t drive right into our garages when we got home from somewhere. We got out in the driveway, and if our neighbors were outside, everybody stood around and talked for a while. I think our garages/garage door openers put an end to that for a lot of people. Fortunately, in my neighborhood, we’ll see our neighbors out walking and pull our car over to chat. But that doesn’t happen everywhere.

When we were teenagers in the 80s, it was like we had a revolving door…neighborhood kids and teenagers in and out all the time.

Drop-ins used to be part of life. But no more. Now, everybody calls ahead, so we don’t have any pleasant surprises when friends show up unexpectedly.

I’m ready to change that. I’m telling my friends, “Drop in!”  Ring the doorbell when you get here, and if we’re home, I’ll motion for you to walk around the side of the house to the backyard, where we can sit by the pool and have a cocktail. If you want to bring lunch, that’s OK too! Chances are, I’ll be here, since I’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home with this pandemic happening. Of course, it’s hit or miss on whether I’ll still be in my pajamas, but if you don’t mind, I don’t mind! Maybe I’ll even share some cucumbers or tomatoes from my garden!

 

Host a Virtual Brunch

I want to host a virtual brunch.

For the past few years, I have hosted at least one spring brunch for friends at my house, but this year will be different. No spring brunch, unless I get creative. My friends will need to be creative too, but maybe I can find a few who are willing to do a virtual spring brunch while we’re all “social distancing.” I talked to a lady at the bank (on the phone, of course) who told me she’d enjoyed a virtual cocktail hour with friends the night before, so why not a brunch?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

I’ll pick a future date (but not too distant) that might be good for a few friends. We can use the Zoom app to all “get together.” But how do we do brunch together through the app?

First, we all need to set a dress code. Personally, I think it should be spring luncheon dress…pretty dresses or blouses that will cheer us all up. I have a Saloni dress I got for Easter last year that would work perfectly. The fabric is bright pink, blue, orange, yellow, and green flowers on a white background. It has ruffles and looks very happy and seasonal. So I will encourage everyone to wear a happy, spring dress or blouse.

For decor, I think it will be fun to let everyone decide their own decor for their space, but make it as happy and springlike as possible! I will likely use my mother’s Desert Rose china and decorate my “space” around that…pink and green…with whatever I can find around my house. Or I have some other pretty spring china of Mother’s that’s blue and green…that could be pretty too. I’ll definitely use my sterling silverware instead of stainless…just to make it feel more special. And crystal glasses.  If I can find some pretty flowers outside in the neighborhood, I’ll use those too.

And how about the menu? Should we all have the same things? That could be tough, since we don’t all have access to the same things. But it will be interesting to see what everyone has! I know I have plenty of pimiento cheese, so I can make some finger sandwiches for my meal. I have some strawberries, so I can have those. Maybe I’ll make a Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole from the Hungry Girl website. (Click here for recipe.) I’m having to think in terms of what I actually have on hand. For my beverage of choice, I’ll go with Prosecco…I have a lot on hand. If I have any fruit juice on hand, I’ll make a froufrou drink, but if not, I’m cool with Prosecco. And for dessert, I’ll have cupcakes from Baked By Melissa (click here), because I know I have an order arriving soon. They’ll add some color!

This pandemic is certainly not fun, because these are trying times, but it’s OK to look for a little happiness where we can. We’ll say some prayers for those who are sick and their families, and we’ll pray for those who have lost jobs or businesses. A little bit of “virtual” happiness might make us feel better for a little while. I think I’ll send out some virtual invitations today!

Stay safe. Stay well. And stay hopeful.

Portion-Controlled Desserts? Yes, Please!

Portion-controlled desserts? Yes, please!

If you’re anything like me, you have difficulty knowing what a real “serving” of cake is. Big slice? Little slice? What is the perfect slice? And then…how do I keep myself from eating more than I should?

Hungry Girl to the rescue!

Everybody knows I love Hungry Girl. Not familiar with Hungry Girl? I’m happy to introduce you! When you get to the website, sign up for daily emails, click that you heard about them from a Hungry Girl Ambassador (me!), and enter my name (Kelly Mattei). I’ve loved Hungry Girl for years, and I’ve promoted Hungry Girl for years, but now they know I’m promoting them! I don’t promote anything I don’t believe in, so you can bet your sweet bippy I believe in Hungry Girl.

On to the good stuff…

One of my favorite finds on the Hungry Girl website? Portion-controlled desserts…specifically, single serving desserts in mugs and cups. Sounds awesome, right?!? That’s because they are awesome!

I’ve made a couple of them, and my teenage daughter loves them as much as I do! They are all super simple and fast!

Here are some of my favorites!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Mug. My mother used to make Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes all the time when I was growing up. There was always at least one at every family gathering, and they disappeared fast! This Hungry Girl version is simple and easy, and the recipe makes two portions, each containing 201 calories. Not bad for a yummy and beautiful dessert! It’s a favorite at our house. I’ve made it when friends have come over for coffee, and it’s always a hit! Did I mention it’s beautiful too?! Get the recipe here.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Mug

Red Hot Apple Pie in a Cup. Another “easy as pie” recipe from Hungry Girl, this one is fun for kids too! (Do not let children make this unaccompanied. The pie is HOT when it comes out of the microwave!) It has candy and graham crackers in it! ‘Nuff said! And fruit! It has fruit! At only 140 calories per serving, it makes for a great dessert the whole family will love! I think it even sounds good for a snow day. My daughter loves to have friends over for snow days, and I love to feed them! Get the recipe here.

Red Hot Apple Pie in a Cup

Chocolate Cake Mugs for Two. Who doesn’t love chocolate cake?! This one comes in at 199 calories per serving, and the serving size is not in question, because it’s cooked in the perfect portion! This is another one that sounds good for a snow day or for friends who come over for coffee. The ingredient list is short, and most of the ingredients are likely on hand all the time. Make yourself happy with a little chocolate cake! Hungry Girl tells you how this age-old treat without overdoing it! Get the recipe here.

Chocolate Cake Mugs for Two

This is just a sampling of what Hungry Girl offers in portion-controlled dessert recipes. Seriously, try them. Anyone can make them…even those “kitchen challenged” friends of mine. You can see more portion-controlled desserts from Hungry Girl here.

We are hoping for a little snow in Charlotte over the next couple of days, so I’m going to the store and stocking up on ingredients for these gems tonight! All kids who love to sled are welcome to join in the fun…and eat some yummy desserts too! Moms…come on over for coffee, and I will share desserts with you too!

*Please let me know when you try these recipes! I love to get feedback!*

***All photos courtesy of hungry-girl.com***

 

 

 

How Did I Miss Out on This?!?!

How did I miss out on this?!?!

Throughout life, there are times that I’ve thought, “How did I miss out on this?!?!” But by the time I reached age 52, I thought I had likely seen it all. Surely, unless it’s something new, there’s nothing that’s been going on for years around me that I didn’t even notice. Sure, at 40-something, I learned about the little tabs on the end of the aluminum foil box that hold the roll in place, but that was before I was 50. I wasn’t surprised about the flat tire icon on the car dashboard or the little arrow that shows which side the gas tank is on. If you don’t know all those things, you need to get busy Googling.

But earlier this week, I learned about something that is supposedly southern that I didn’t know about. That thing? Pineapple Casserole. Never heard of it till Sunday or Monday of this week, and as I type, it’s Wednesday. I grew up in Alabama. If it’s a southern dish, how did I manage to make it to 52 without ever having heard of it?!?

So I did what I do. I went to my personal Facebook page and asked my friends if they grew up eating/knowing about Pineapple Casserole, and if they did, where did they grow up?

I got lots of responses saying they grew up with it. Lots of folks from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and surprisingly (to me), Alabama…even a friend from High Springs, Florida, which is actually in the part of Florida that’s still “southern” had grown up with it! My people (an aunt and cousins) in the Florida Panhandle (a part of Florida that is still very southern) had not grow up seeing it, just like I’d never seen it. One cousin said she had it as an adult when a friend made it, but otherwise, my family had somehow missed out on Pineapple Casserole. Maybe it’s a familial thing??? I’d never even had it at my grandmother’s house in Birmingham, but according to a cousin who now lives in California, she had served it to her and her friends she referred to as the “soup ladies.” Even my friend, Amy, from Selma, Alabama (does it get any more southern than Selma?!?), said she did not eat it growing up. I promptly decided we must be related, since we both grew up in Alabama and had never heard of it. I now refer to her as Cousin Amy.

But just so you know, friends from Indiana, Philadelphia, and Delaware also had it when they were growing up, so now I’m wondering just how “southern” it is. But that’s beside the point. Everyone except one South Carolina girl gave it two thumbs up, so you know I have to try it.

I will make it later this week, and I can hardly wait! But for the holy grail of Pineapple Casseroles, I’m going to ask my friend, Crazy Jane, to make it for me when she visits. Crazy Jane is the best cook in the world, so even if we followed the exact same recipe, her version would be far better than mine. She just has a special touch.

I’ve asked several friends what I should expect. Some say it’s the perfect side dish with ham. Others say it’s almost dessert-like, because it does contain sugar…and not just a little of it. Plus, pineapple is sweet and a little dessert-like, right? It also contains butter, flour, cheese, and other stuff. Sounds disgusting, right? But my friends know good food, so I’m trusting them when they say it’s delicious. I thought the recipe for the Mississippi Pot Roast (click here) sounded disgusting too, but I absolutely love the stuff!

So I know you’ve been waiting for the recipe. I went to the Southern Living website for the recipe, because it’s a site I trust. If Southern Living posts a bad recipe, they hear about it from lots of southern ladies, so I think they’re pretty careful. You can see the recipe here.

If you’ve never had Pineapple Casserole and decide to make it, I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m starting to question my southern roots, since I’ve never had it! How did that happen?!? I’ve been to lots of church covered dish lunches and family potlucks, and I’ve never seen it. Or maybe when I was a kid, I saw it and thought it looked disgusting. That’s likely. I’ll let you know what I think after I make it.

I’m also wondering if I can get Hungry Girl to do some ingredient swaps and bring down the calorie count on this crazy sounding dish?!? Maybe I’ll send the recipe to their test kitchen!

 

 

Healthier Options for Your Super Bowl Party

Hosting a Super Bowl Party?

It’s that time of year! College football (my favorite) is over, and there are just a couple more weeks of NFL games…division championships and the Super Bowl on February 2, Groundhog Day. This year, it’s Super Bowl LIV…that’s 54 for those of you who can’t read Roman numerals. Plus, it looks kind of cool that it’s LIV…makes me think of LIVE! I’m probably the only one thinking that, so I’ll move on.

Once the Super Bowl is over, we have to wait months for football to start up again, so let’s have a party!

I remember lots of past Super Bowls. The earliest one I remember is Super Bowl XII, between the Dallas Cowboys with Roger Staubach playing quarterback and Tom Landry coaching, and the Denver Broncos and their “Orange Crush” defense. I had likely watched other Super Bowls, because my parents were big sports fans, but that’s the first one I remember…maybe because it was the first one played in prime time? And boy, was it hyped! It was also the first one played in a domed stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, and the Cowboys won 27-12. I remember others too, and I wish I remembered Super Bowl X, in which Kenny Stabler, at quarterback, led the Oakland Raiders to victory over the Minnesota Vikings, but I don’t remember it. I remember Super Bowl XXXVIII for the wrong reason: Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. I remember it, because we were at a friend’s house who had previously played for the Carolina Panthers, and the Panthers were playing the Patriots. I had a 3-month-old baby, and I was tired, but I wanted to go, so I took the baby with me. I took the baby home right after the wardrobe malfunction, but that night lives on in my brain.

So this year, we don’t know yet who will be playing, but we can at least start planning our menus for parties! Since it’s just two weeks ago, I need to wrap my brain around a few recipes for the big day. I don’t go all crazy with a gigantic spread, but I want to have a few tasty snacks. Using Hungry Girl as my guide, here are a few I plan to use:

Buffalo Chicken Chili. Sure, I could make regular old chili, and I’m sure most folks would think it’s great, but why not change it up a bit? You can make Buffalo Chicken Chili in your slow cooker, and will be gobbled up by all your guests. It takes two things sports fans love, chili and Buffalo chicken, and mixes them together for a unique flavored chili that’s super easy to make. You can see the recipe here.BuffChili1_web

Cheeseburger Meatloaf. Not gonna lie…anything with “cheeseburger” in the title sounds good to me, and this is no exception. Cheeseburger Meatloaf? Yes, please! And have no fear…just because these are better for you than a normal fatty cheeseburger, they’re still delicious! I’ve made these several times, and the flavor is incredible. Plus, they are made in muffin pans, so the portion sizes are perfect. In fact, you can eat two of these and still stay under 200 calories! Mmm mmm good! Every man at the party will thank you for these hearty, flavorful treats. See the recipe for Cheeseburger Meatloaf here. Hungry Girl has other great cheeseburger-y recipes too. Maybe you’d like to make the Layered Cheeseburger Dip (recipe here)? Or serve the Air Fryer Cheeseburger Egg Rolls (recipe here)?retina_hungry-girl-cheeseburger-mini-meatloaves-20170220-1619-32204-3223-2

Veggie Chips. Nope, not the packaged ones you buy in the store. Hungry Girl has some great recipes for veggie chips made in your air fryer! I love the Air Fried Ranch Zucchini Chips (recipe here), and even my daughter liked them. Trust me, she’s a picky 16-yr-old; if she likes them, they are really good. Or maybe you love fried pickles at your favorite sports bar. Make a healthier version of them, Faux Fried Pickle Chips, in your air fryer with this great recipe from Hungry Girl (click here)! If you don’t have an air fryer, you need one. I just moved into the 21st century myself and purchased one…greatest invention ever!

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Faux Fried Pickle Chips

Healthier Super Bowl Spreads. Everybody knows that for a Super Bowl Party, you need to have dips, and Hungry Girl doesn’t disappoint in this category. I’ve made several of the recipes on the site, and one of my personal favorites is in her book, Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry Obsessed. It’s called the For the Win Spinach Artichoke Dip, and the flavors are fabulous. You can purchase the book at Amazon here. In the same book, she has the Ultimate Ate-Layer Dip, a healthier version of the seven layer dip we all know and love. I highly recommend the book, and you can still order it in time to make the recipes for Super Bowl. On the website, though, she has Turkey-rific Taco Dip, a great mixture of flavors (see here), and Buff Chick Hot Wing Dip, which has been a big hit when I’ve served it. See the recipe here.

 

 

Pitcher Cocktails. I find it’s easier to make cocktails by the pitcher to save myself running back and forth to the bar. Hungry Girl has some great options for that too! The Sassy n Spiked Pink Lemonade Pitcher is a great choice…who doesn’t like spiked lemonade? See the recipe here. And I also love the Sparkling Sangria…also made in a pitcher. See the recipe here.

 

And don’t forget, to keep it fun but healthier, you can always serve veggies for dipping instead of chips. See in photos above that Hungry Girl has carrots, celery, and bell peppers for dipping.

Happy Super Bowl! And as Hungry Girl would say, “Chew the right thing!”

***All photos courtesy of Hungry-Girl.com. To sign up for daily emails from Hungry Girl, click hereOn the pull-down menu asking where you heard about Hungry Girl, click HG Ambassador, and enter my name (Kelly Mattei). Thank you!***

Hungry Girl Breakfast Ideas

Y’all know I’ve loved Hungry Girl for a long time, and I really love the breakfast recipes, because it can be difficult to get creative with breakfast and keep it on the healthier side at the same time. Who wants the same old thing every day? So, if you’re ready to change things up a bit in 2020 while sticking to your resolutions for the new year, read on. I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite recipes and provide links, so you can make breakfast a little more exciting at your house too. They’re great for when you have houseguests too! They’ll think you’re the most creative host ever!

Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. In a hurry every morning and think you don’t have time to worry about changing things up? Well, you do. Hungry Girl offers lots of recipes for overnight oats, but my personal favorite is the recipe for Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. It’s easy to make, and it doesn’t leave you feeling flat an hour later like waffles and pancakes do. And these have way more nutritional value than a muffin. My daddy would have said overnight oats “stick to your ribs.” With just nine ingredients, many of which you always have in your cupboard, it’s easy to throw this together the night before and stick it in the refrigerator. On your way out the next morning, just grab it and go! I love blueberries, but I also love that these oats have a little almond/cinnamon flavor. You’ll love it, and your picky-eater kids might even like it too! My picky teen loves it. See the recipe here. And see the recipes for other overnight oats here.

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Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

 

Breakfast Pizza Mexicali. Wanna spice up your mornings? The Hungry Girl Breakfast Pizza Mexicali will do it! It’s easy, with a prep time of just five minutes, and the cook time is only ten minutes! I prefer this one on weekends, when I have time to sit down and enjoy it. It’s a big hit with guests who like spicier foods too. I’ve had some who even added a little hot sauce! With just four ingredients (plus one optional garnish), it’s super easy to make, and it just makes me happy! See the recipe here.

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Breakfast Mexicali Pizza…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug. Sounds unhealthy, I know, but stick with me. Because this recipe is totally portion-controlled, it’s easy to stick to a lower calorie count…and no joke, it’s as delicious as it is easy. It’s basically made by adding the listed ingredients to a mug before adding the pieces of bread…then stirring and heating before garnishing. Make it for the kids, and they will think it’s a treat. Make it for yourself, and well, you’ll think it’s a treat too! If you like French Toast, this is an easy way to have it without all the calories, as each serving has just 145 calories! See the recipe here.

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Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

Healthy Superfood Breakfasts. If you want to supercharge yourself with some healthy superfood breakfast choices, these two options are easy, delicious, and super healthy! I’m listing them together, because Hungry Girl lists them together. One is the Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise, and the other is the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl. You might think those sound like obvious choices, but Hungry Girl adds extra flavor, so you will want to make these again and again. The Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise is easy to put together and chill overnight, so you can grab and go in the morning. In fact, it’s so good, I might have it again tomorrow morning. And the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl, while simple, is crunchy, juicy, healthy, and delicious…all in one bowl. See the recipes here.

Try a few of these recipes and let me know what you think. And while you’re at it, take a moment to sign up for Hungry Girl emails  here. And after you put in your email address, where it asks how you heard about Hungry Girl, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador,” and then enter my name, Kelly Mattei. I’d love for them to know you’re learning more about them from me!

***For more great Hungry Girl breakfast recipes, click here.***

 

Discover Hungry Girl Now!

At 52, I still love learning new things, and I really love sharing when I find something I love….thus, my website, of course. In January, we always hear a lot about people wanting to get healthier. Yes, there are lots of different ways to do that…diet, exercise, sleep, etc.

I’m not a good “dieter.” As soon as I think of the word, “diet,” I just want to eat every potato in sight. That’s the truth. Any time I have ever gone on a diet, all I’ve thought about is food.

But here’s something that I love: Hungry Girl. If you aren’t familiar with Hungry Girl but you’d like to know about some good low-calorie swaps and get some new recipes, you need to familiarize yourself with the brand. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Lillien, the founder, and her staff a couple of years ago, and I immediately wanted to become a part of that fun group! I don’t think of it as a diet, because the recipes are flavorful and fun, and frankly, I am amazed at the ease of most of the recipes! Hungry Girl knows how to keep it exciting, and there are so many ways to get dialed into it.

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  • Hungry Girl on Facebook. This should be your first step to getting informed about Hungry Girl. When you go to the Hungry Girl Facebook page, click “sign up,” then where it asks how you heard about it, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador” and enter my name, Kelly Mattei! Go to the Facebook page here. I love Hungry Girl, and I want them to know how much I love them, so make sure you enter my name! Yes, I’m a Hungry Girl Ambassador, but anyone who knows me knows I can’t promote something I don’t believe in…I believe in it.
  • Hungry-girl.com. So, once you’ve signed up through facebook, you’ll start getting emails from the website. Y’all, the website is chock full of great recipes, great swaps, and great tips! Want something low carb? Just type it into the search bar and find some recipes! Want something made with chicken or turkey? Type it into the search bar! And through the website, you can access Lisa’s podcasts, recipe spotlights, and great product finds! You’ll also know when Lisa is going to have TV appearances…she’s so cute and bubbly; you don’t want to miss her! You will get all sorts of great information! Check it out!
  • Hungry Girl Magazine. This fabulous magazine started at the beginning of 2018. I could hardly wait to get my hands on the first issue…and I have enjoyed every issue since. It’s full of recipes, as well, and offers tips on how to snack smart, but it also features some success stories from Hungry Girl fans. You should be able to find copies of the magazine in your local big box retailers like Target and Walmart, but I usually pick up a copy in my local Barnes and Noble bookstore.
  • Hungry Girl books. Honestly, I have all of them and love all of them, but my personal favorite is Hungry Girl: Simply 6, because all the recipes have six ingredients or fewer. All the recipes I’ve tried from her books have been easy, and since I’m no chef, that’s saying a lot! Pick up a copy of one or all of her books at Amazon.com here.

And you know what else? You can follow Hungry Girl on Instagram too! It was from Instagram that I found out about the recipe I’ll be trying for dinner tonight: Mexican Spaghetti Squash Bowl! Yum! You can find it by clicking on the link in the Hungry Girl bio on Instagram!

It costs nothing to sign up with Hungry Girl (on Facebook here)…please remember to click that you heard about them from a Hungry Girl Ambassador and put my name. You will find recipes your whole family will love, and you never have to utter the word “diet.”

Let me know that you’ve signed up! And once you’ve tried a few of the recipes, let me know which ones are your favorites! I think you’ll find food doesn’t have to be boring to be good for you! I will feature a few of my favorites from time to time!

Happy New Year!

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019, Part 2: Home Gifts

If there’s someone on your holiday gift list who loves receiving home gifts, you’re in the right place. Or if you’re planning to go to holiday parties in folks’ homes, you need to be prepared to take some hostess/host gifts. Either way, I’ve done lots of research, so you don’t have to. Need some ideas? Every year, I take great pride in finding gifts that are unique. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody loves a good candle more than I love a good candle, but I also love to give unique gifts.

So here we go…for your viewing pleasure…gifts for the home!

Neiman Marcus 2019 Holiday Platter. I’m a big fan of the Neiman Marcus annual holiday platter, and this is a repeat from last year’s list. In fact, it will be a repeat every year. I get one for myself every year, and I get some for friends too. At $40, it’s pretty inexpensive, and the platters are always beautiful and well-made. And don’t forget useful…I use them all the time! This year’s platter is red, my favorite color for the holidays! You can purchase online here. And when you order from Neiman Marcus for the holidays, I always recommend paying the extra for the beautiful gift wrap. It makes the gift a little more special.

Custom Family Portrait. Sounds expensive, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be. A friend gave me the cutest family portrait from Mrs. Best Co. shop on Etsy. Starting at  about $40, these cute, whimsical portraits are fun and memorable! Anyone would appreciate this thoughtful gift! If you know someone for whom you’d like to do this, start thinking about doing it now! You can purchase here.Look around on Etsy at different versions. There are more detailed family portraits that are more expensive, but this one is fun!il_fullxfull.1514771239_4aevTea/Dish towels. I love when someone gives me tea/dish towels. I love flour sack dish towels, and I love funny dish towels. And I especially love holiday themed dish towels, because it’s an easy way to “decorate” for the holidays. This year, I found some cute ones at Target. They’re inexpensive, and they’re festive. Some are Sugar Cookie-themed, while others are Hot Cocoa-themed or just general holiday themed. Purchase for $5.69 (for two!) here. Amazon has some great flour sack towels too. You can see those and purchase here.

 

Coffee Table Books. One of my best friends loves Coffee Table Books more than anything. She knows I’m talking about her. While I don’t love them as much as she does, I enjoy them too. There are some great ones out there. Chip and Joanna Gaines have the coffee table book, Homebody, in Target Stores now for 30 percent off! Get it here. I also came across a lovely coffee table book earlier this year by Shayla Copas; it’s called Four Seasons of Entertaining, and while I would never be able to put together the things she pulls together, the book is full of great ideas and it is absolutely gorgeous! I actually met the lovely author at a signing in our local Neiman Marcus, and she was perfectly charming. Purchase the book here.

Knit Throw. Last year, I was all about the faux fur throw, and I still love them. But this year, I’m all about the knitted throw…especially the ones that are extra chunky. I could make my own, but frankly, the yarn alone would cost me more than purchasing a throw in a store. I found one in Target last night that I absolutely loved, and it’s under $70. I also found one at Amazon for about the same price. Does anything seem more cozy than a chunky knit throw? And they look beautiful too! Get one at Amazon here.61J1XPV1RPL._SL1078_

Mario Luca Giusti Set of Double Old Fashioned Glasses. Acrylic, acrylic, acrylic. These double old fashioned glasses are fun…the colors are fun…and the fact that they are virtually unbreakable makes them even better! I have lots of friends who would love these. For just $72, you can get these for your friend or family member at Neiman Marcus. And don’t forget the pretty gift wrap! Purchase here

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Custom Home Portrait. I want this. I want this. I want this. I think people love having pictures of home. And this is another good, inexpensive gift option. I have found some places on Etsy that do home portraits for as little as $25! Yes! You read right: $25! It’s hard to find any gift for $25 these days. Of course, some home portraits are more “custom” than others, so prices can vary. The photo below is from Bailemor Studio on Etsy and priced at $29. Look at lots of different options on Etsy here.il_fullxfull.2024205616_cw36Letter board. This isn’t something I thought I would ever recommend, but I’ve seen how friends leave positive messages for their families…in their kitchens, mudroom, etc., so I think they’re fun! And I think kids and teens like them too. Wandering through Target last night, I came across a few, ranging in price from $12.99 to $29.99. Look closely to decide which one will suit your friend or family member best. What a fun, inexpensive gift! See Target’s offerings hereIMG_5131

Glass lantern. A friend gave me a glass lantern during the holidays last year, and though I had never thought about one before, I absolutely loved it! She had tied a beautiful holiday bow at the top, and I put a battery-operated candle in it…it made for a lovely holiday centerpiece in my dining room. Therefore, I’ve decided glass lanterns make great gifts. And the recipient can change the bow for different seasons. I have several favorites. See photos below.

Decorative Dragonfly (or Butterfly, Bee, or Ladybug). These are just little tchotchkes, but they’re fun, and I think they make lovely, thoughtful gifts for the right person. For example, I have a friend who loves dragonflies…they remind her of her daddy. Another friend loves ladybugs, because she feels like they are good luck. They would love these little brass tchotchkes, and at $35, these are a bargain gift. Get them at Neiman Marcus.

 

Louis Sherry Chocolates. I have loved Louis Sherry Chocolates since the first time I had them at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York. They come in lovely tins, and the chocolates are unforgettable. I wrote a piece about them in September. You can see it here. These make great hostess gifts for the holidays, and this year, Louis Sherry is offering a limited edition Nutcracker tin. Get the 12-piece tin of chocolates for $35 at Neiman Marcus here.Or order directly from Louis Sherry, where they are priced at $40.nmhcnlx_mz.jpg
Mason Jar Indoor Flower Garden. I saw this on Uncommongoods.com and immediately ordered it for a friend who loves flowers as much as I do. Flowers are beautiful and brighten anyone’s day, but what’s even better? Edible flowers! Using just this kit and some water, the recipient can have a lovely windowsill garden! Priced at $20, it’s a lovely hostess gift or holiday gift for a friend or family member. Get it here.42998_1_640px

Anthropologie. This is a first. I normally don’t just list a store in my gift pieces, but Anthropologie has lots of little, unusual, home gifts. Some of my favorites are their Agate Cheese Boards and their bud vases. But I highly recommend you just go peruse the site…click here to see their home gifts.

 

The Buttercup. If you live in Charlotte or find yourself in the area, visit The Buttercup on Providence Road for more great home gifts. See the website here.

Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts. In Fairhope, Alabama, shop Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts for lots of great home/garden gifts. Located at 11983 E State Highway 104 in Fairhope.

And those are my selections/suggestions for HOME GIFTS for 2019. I hope you’ll find something that will help make your holiday gifting easier! If you’d like to see last year’s selections for more ideas, you can click here

    UP NEXT? GIFTS FOR TEENS/COLLEGE STUDENTS…COMING SOON!

 

Game Day Snacks

It’s football season! Finally!

In North Carolina today, the sky is a little more clear, and the wind is a ever so slightly more dry. Maybe it’s a cold front moving in, or maybe I’m imagining it, but since today is National College Colors Day, I know it is officially football season.

I love all kinds of football…high school, college, professional…well, I don’t really like to watch bad, messy football (like that Florida/Miami game last week), but I will even take that over no football at all. I get it from my mother. The woman loved football. Interesting that the start of football season usually falls around her birthday. She is gone now, but I know she would be excited if she were here. In my house, you had to like football. You also had to like to watch baseball and basketball, or you were going to be watching television alone. We watched sports year round. I don’t watch baseball and basketball like I used to. I still like them, but I just don’t watch them much anymore. But football? Bring…it…on!

And with football, there are gatherings of friends and families. Where there are gatherings, there must be food. I’m not talking tailgating…that’s food on a whole different level. I’m talking football gatherings at home…like the one I’ll have this weekend when Alabama plays Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. I’d normally go to that game, but my teenage daughter has big plans for the weekend, and I didn’t really want to go without her.

So here are a few of my favorites to serve at football parties at home:

  • Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves. This is a recipe from my very favorite source, Hungry Girl. I’m an avid follower of on Instagram, and I subscribe to the emails and check the website regularly. These Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves are simple to make and require only a few ingredients. You won’t believe you didn’t think of these yourself. I’ve served them several times, and every time, they disappear quickly, so make a few batches. See the recipe at hungry-girl.com, here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Toasted Pimento Cheese Rounds. Super easy to make. Purchase a sliced French loaf at your local grocery store. Spread your favorite pimento cheese spread over the rounds. Crumble a few pieces of cooked bacon over the top. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees, and remove when cheese is bubbling. You can add a small 1/4 slice of tomato to the top or not. I prefer Palmetto Cheese brand (see it here), and I like the jalapeño pimento cheese for an added kick.

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    Photo from pimentocheese.com

  • Veggie Dip. I love the flavor of dill in a dip, and I’ve found a great recipe for a veggie dip. It contains onions and dill, and it’s fresh and tasty. It’s just a few ingredients and super easy…but super tasty. Get the recipe here. Serve with your favorite raw veggies. I prefer carrots, broccoli, and cucumber slices.
  • Herbed Parmesan Popcorn. Popcorn is always a good snack for game days, but sometimes it’s fun with a twist. I found a recipe for Herbed Parmesan Popcorn that’s easy to make…notice a theme here? I don’t do complicated recipes. I’ve served it twice, and both times, it was well-received. Get the recipe here.herbparmpopcorn_jimfranco1-2
  • Seasoned almonds. My friend, Mary Ann, introduced me to some gourmet, seasoned almonds recently, and I haven’t been able to stop eating them. I think they are great to have in bowls around the room for a ball game. Made by Blue Diamond, I find them in my local Target. My favorite flavors are the Pink Himalayan Salt and the Rosemary. I like the Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil ones, but I have a feeling I will love the Black Truffle flavor too! See the Blue Diamond website here. You can purchase them in grocery stores, or you can order directly from Blue Diamond via the website.

And if you’re not up for preparing your own game day snacks, I recommend picking up from these two places:

  • Chick-Fil-A. I wrote recently about the Chick-Fil-A One app…don’t forget to use it if you pick up a tray of nuggets, chicken strips, cool wraps, mac and cheese, or cookies. And you must order in advance! I do all my ordering through the app, and I get those valuable points too! My person favorite for game day? A nugget tray with Chick-Fil-A sauce, a fruit tray, and some chocolate chip cookies. They’re always a hit. See the Chick-Fil-A website here.
  • Zoe’s Kitchen. I love Zoe’s. I discovered it when we moved our little family to Alabama for a couple of months in 2006, when my daddy was sick. Everything they offer is delicious. Their hummus tray is great for gatherings, and I love their pita trays too…a different kind of sandwich tray with a Mediterranean flavor. And if you just need some side items, I highly recommend their slaw and potato salad. See their website here.

There you have it…my recommendations for game day snacks. Let’s get this football season started! I can hardly wait for lots of games to be on every weekend.

Are you ready for some football???

Mama Loves A Bellini

Yep, Mama loves a Bellini. Just so you know…sometimes, when I’m being silly or trying to give something more emphasis, I refer to myself as “Mama.” So yes, I love a Bellini.

I’m a big fan of champagne-type cocktails. When I was younger (way back in my 20s) and living in Mobile, Alabama, it was always fun to drive over to New Orleans (two hours away) for a weekend and enjoy a Mimosa with brunch at Commander’s Palace. I’ve loved Mimosas since then, and every time I have one, I think of Joe Simon’s Jazz Trio at Commander’s Palace…back when Joe Simon actually played with the trio. You’ve seen him in movies and on Zatarain’s commercials…he retired in 2014, but his trio still plays at Commander’s Palace. Back then, long before I referred to myself as “Mama,” every time I was there, he would play Baby Face at my table, and every time, I was overjoyed…I was much younger, obviously.

And then, many years later, I had my first Bellini. Of course, I had heard about them for years, but I never tried one till 2011, and I tried it at the right place…Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills. Mr. C is owned by the Cipriani family…the same family that owns Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, birthplace of the Bellini.

I knew Bellinis were made of one part Prosecco and one part peach purée, but I had no idea peach purée varied. They do. It’s difficult to have a Bellini elsewhere when you’ve had the original.

For a few years, I regularly ordered Cipriani’s Bellini Mix online from their website to make my own Bellinis at home, but frankly, it was expensive, and sometimes I didn’t drink it all before it went bad. Therefore, I started making Bellinis with Simply Peach from my local grocer, and I also tried Looza Brand peach juice from The Fresh Market after a friend suggested it. And it was good…but it wasn’t Cipriani’s.

A few days ago, I joined some friends for lunch at Bistro La Bon in Charlotte (website here), and afterward, I wandered into World Market nearby. I hadn’t been into World Market in years…had completely forgotten about it, in fact…so I had a great time wandering around checking out their outdoor furniture, wine glasses, and candies before I came upon a blue bottle with a familiar logo.

There it was…on a shelf in the wine area…Cipriani Bellini in a lovely blue bottle! I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t just the mix…it was pre-made Cipriani Bellini in a bottle! Of course, I put eight bottles in my cart and made my way to the checkout. Yes, I bought eight bottles before even trying it, because I knew it would be good. Cipriani would not put their name on it if it weren’t good.

And I was not disappointed.

I drove home and put a bottle in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours, and when I opened it, I was absolutely thrilled. It was perfect. Even better…I found I can re-cork it if I don’t finish the bottle! It has the perfect peachy flavor with just the right bubbly essence. And I don’t have to travel to LA, New York, or Venice for the perfect Cipriani Bellini!

So, if you like Bellinis, come on over in the afternoon or early evening, and we can sit by the pool drinking the perfect Cipriani Bellinis. Or you can buy your own at World Market…but evenings at our house out by the pool are incredibly relaxing. Come on over!

Hello Bubbles! Goodbye Troubles!