Cheers to Cheerwine

You don’t know what Cheerwine is? Well, I didn’t either till I moved to North Carolina.

I got married in 2000 and loaded up all my belongings in a U-Haul truck, taking them all to my new home with my new husband in Charlotte, North Carolina.

When I moved to Charlotte, I found a beautiful city with lots of green spaces and lovely people. I was thrilled to be living in a bigger city that, at the time, was a hub for USAirways. USAirways has since merged with American Airlines, so our hub is even better now. Charlotte is jam packed with stuff to do…NFL games, NBA games, minor league baseball, museums, a large amusement park, NASCAR, and more.

After moving to Charlotte, I was also introduced to Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soft drink bottled in Salisbury, a small town located just northeast of Charlotte, and I loved it. The first question I had about it might be the same question you have: does it contain alcohol? Even though the word “wine” is in the name of the drink, there is no alcohol in Cheerwine. The only cherry-flavored soda I’d ever had prior to Cheerwine was Cherry Coke, which has more of a cola base with a little cherry thrown in. And maybe Dr. Pepper? Do people think it has some cherry flavor? It’s good, but it’s not really a cherry soda. I had enjoyed cherry Icees over the years, but Cheerwine was something different.

On their website, which you can see here, they call themselves “the south’s unique cherry soft drink.” Unique? Indeed…and in a good way! According to the website, it was created in Salisbury, North Carolina, by a gentleman named L.D. Peeler in 1917. That’s over 100 years of Cheerwine! You can read all about the history of the refreshing beverage on their website. In the early 1970s, they introduced Diet Cheerwine, which is actually my favorite, because I just don’t enjoy beverages with real sugar. Lots of people love the original recipe, but I’m a Diet Cheerwine fan all the way. *Don’t preach to me about artificial sweeteners. It will fall on deaf ears.*

Folks in North Carolina are proud of Cheerwine, and lots of folks grew up drinking it. Whenever I think of things that are uniquely representative of the Carolinas, Cheerwine is at the top of list…right up there with college basketball and NASCAR. If you haven’t tried Cheerwine, you should. You can order it online, shipped directly to your home, from cheerwine.com here.

From their site, you can also order Cheerwine apparel, merchandise, and sauces. Most importantly, you can find recipes for cakes, barbecue sauces, and cocktails. There’s a recipe for a Cheerwine southern bundt cake that looks especially appealing to me. I find myself thinking about that cake pretty regularly. I’m going to just have to break down and make one.

And to top it all off, in addition to having the south’s unique cherry soft drink, fun merchandise, apparel, and recipes, Cheerwine has a summer contest going on right now. You can win a vacation getaway! For more information, click here. Who knows, maybe Cheerwine will send you to Asheville, The Outer Banks, or Charleston! You’ll have to take some pics with Cheerwine and put the appropriate hashtag on social media. If you don’t have Cheerwine, you can order it from the website and get started on that contest!

Cheers to Cheerwine!

 

 

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Quick and Easy Brunch

Anyone who knows me will quickly tell you I am no Martha Stewart. I like to cook, but I’m no chef. I don’t have the attention span for recipes with too many ingredients, and I tend to be a “squirrel chaser,” i.e. I’m easily distracted.

Every now and then, though, I like to invite some friends over for a brunch. Sure, I could get it catered, but it’s a great opportunity for me to try my hand at some recipes.

As always, the key for me is the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid. When I start trying to get too extravagant, I lose control of the situation. I learned a long time ago that it’s best for me not to make it too elaborate.

I plan to host a brunch in my home later this month…a lovely, spring brunch. In the past, I’ve used plain glass or even clear plastic plates, but this year, I’m doing something different.

In the early 1940s, my maternal grandmother got her first set of Franciscan Desert Rose dinnerware. If you’re not familiar with it, the first Desert Rose dinnerware was produced in California in 1941, and it became the largest selling and longest running dinnerware pattern ever. Jacqueline Kennedy purchased some for use in the White House. In 1979, the company was sold to Wedgewood in England, and all production was moved to England in 1984. According to cedarhillfarmhouse.com, production was moved to other countries in 2000, but the entire pattern was discontinued in 2013.

It’s not a “fancy” pattern, and it was never expensive, but it’s pretty.

Over the years, my grandmother grew her collection and eventually gave it to my mother. I added to my mother’s collection over the years. When my mother died in December, I brought the Desert Rose to my house. My husband took one look at the boxes and wondered aloud what I was going to do with them. I still haven’t figured out where to keep them, but I plan to use them this spring for a brunch.

There are lots of things to consider when planning a brunch at home, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here is what I make notes on:

*Dinnerware (Desert Rose), where to place food, what to serve, when to prepare food, what beverages to serve, music, seating arrangements, flower arrangements, and party favors.*

The brunch I will be hosting is for a school committee, and the date and time have already been decided, so that decision is off my plate.

The dinnerware/flatware/linens question is the first one you should decide, simply because you can build around that. I have some light green cloth napkins I plan to use, because they will coordinate nicely with the Desert Rose dinnerware. I plan to have all the food served buffet-style from my dining room table, so I’ve selected a table pad and a tablecloth that will work with the dinnerware.

As for flatware, I have collected several sets of stainless flatware from eBay for great prices, so I have place settings for 40 and serving pieces too. eBay is a great resource for collecting.

Music is easy too…we have DirecTV, which offers a myriad of music channels. Usually, for brunch functions, I find a jazz station to provide a light musical background.

For me, deciding on a menu for a brunch is far easier than picking a menu for lunch or dinner. I love the Hungry Girl cookbooks, because she offers low-calorie, healthy recipes for just about anything, and she has some awesome breakfast/brunch options.

For this particular spring brunch, I plan to have this menu:

FRESH FRUIT BOWL: (cut up strawberries and stir in blueberries the night before)

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HUNGRY GIRL CRAMMED WITH CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS from page 38 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL BANANA BREAD BONANZA MUFFINS from page 41 of Hungry Girl Clean and Obsessed (baked the night before and warmed before the brunch)

HUNGRY GIRL VEGGIE-LICIOUS BREAKFAST BAKE (recipe can be found here), assembled ahead of time and bake the day of the brunch

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Veggie-licious Breakfast Bake photo from http://www.hungry-girl.com

MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER’S SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE I could give you the recipe, but I’d have to kill you. That will have to remain within the family.

For beverages, I will serve coffee, water, and orange juice…easy enough. If it weren’t for a school committee, I’d also offer Prosecco.

It’s an easy-to-assemble menu. I will display the muffins on a Desert Rose platter. The Breakfast Bake will be in a Pyrex dish, and the fruit will be in a large bowl. All those foods will be on the dining room table, and I will arrange beverages on the kitchen island. I will grab coffee the morning of the brunch at Panera, and they will provide all the cream and sugar/sweetener. I will have water and juice in two pitchers.

If possible, I always recommend fresh flowers. I love having fresh flowers in the house all the time, but I get an extra arrangement when entertaining…one for the dining room table with the food, and one for the kitchen counter.

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As for seating, the group will be small enough for me to have everyone in the kitchen and keeping room off the kitchen. There is a loveseat and a chair-and-a-half, so that is seating for four people. There are four chairs at my kitchen table, and two taller chairs at the kitchen island bar, for a total of  ten. We have eight dining room chairs we can bring in as needed.

The kitchen/keeping room combo is a perfect place for everyone to congregate, visit with each other, and discuss any committee business.

When the fun is over, it’s always nice to send something home with your guests…a small token that shows you were happy to have them in your home…a party favor. In a previous post, I sang the praises of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies. For this particular event, I plan to have 2-oz jars of Fire Island Peach Jam and/or Apple Pecan Pie Preserves with blue ribbons around the top, because the school colors are blue and white. Everyone will love these! To see what Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies has to offer, click here.

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Photo courtesy of Miss Shelley’s Southern Jams and Jellies Facebook page

So, if you are planning a small brunch at home that you don’t plan to have catered, this is the easy way to do it…keep it simple!

*If you like Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please invite your friends to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.*

Happy Hosting!

Kelly

***All Hungry Girl photos courtesy of hungry-girl.com or her books.***

I love Hungry Girl Magazine (and not camping)

IMG_8129Since starting Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things on Instagram, two of the most popular posts are related to each other: a post about Hungry Girl Magazine and a post about one of the easiest recipes from the magazine, the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Mug.

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I love Hungry Girl cookbooks, and frankly, I think Lisa Lillien, aka Hungry Girl, is the “bomb-dot-com.”  So no one was more excited than I was when the premiere premiere issue of Hungry Girl Magazine hit newsstands. I grabbed a copy at Barnes & Noble, and it is packed full of recipes for snacks, pizza-fied foods, make-ahead breakfasts, and lots of food hacks too. See all the sticky notes I’ve used to mark recipes in the photo? I especially love the section titled “Mug Shots,” recipes for desserts and breakfasts in single-serving mugs! Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien doesn’t profess to be a chef, but she is the “guru of guilt-free eating”, as shown on the cover of the premiere issue. You can find her cookbooks everywhere and see her on TV regularly. She KNOWS what we want, people! Most of her recipes don’t have tons of ingredients, and she knows we want PICTURES of the finished product. How many times have you picked up a magazine/cookbook that has a fabulous recipe but no photo? When there’s no photo, I tend to keep flipping the pages. Hungry Girl has photos for everything. The first recipe I tried from the magazine was the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Mug…super easy and delicious! Make sure you use the nonstick spray as directed. I didn’t do it the first time. Trust me, you want to do it. (The photo below is my own!)

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Frankly, I tried this recipe first, simply because I already had all the ingredients in my kitchen. I’ve made it several times since, and every time, I’ve been pleased! In fact, it’s an easy, fast way to have a healthy breakfast. If I can make it, anybody can! I’ve also made the Chocolate Cake in a Mug, the Parmesan Zucchini Fries, and the Zucchini Pizza Boats…all delicious and low-cal. You can find more low-cal recipes and info at her website by clicking here. Get on the email list, and watch some of the videos. I just watched one for a Big Mac Bowl…dinner at my house tonight! She changes the videos daily, so while the video  may not be there when you look, the recipe for the Big Mac Bowl can be found here.

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BACKSTORY: I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Lisa Lillien, aka Hungry Girl, and she is as delightful in person as she is on TV! I first met her and her lovely assistant, Gina, when they were doing a book tour. Remember in my last post how I said I love giveaways? Well, at the book tour event, Lisa had giveaways. Early on, I noticed how all the winners politely waved when their numbers were called, so someone could bring them their prize. I told my friend, Meg, there was no way I was going to be all polite if I won…I was going to run down the aisle Price is Right-style. Alas, I didn’t win, so Meg didn’t have a chance to get a video of me running down the aisle. Chances are I would have fallen anyway, which would have been a whole different video!

HUNGRYLAND! I went with my sis-in-law, my daughter, and a friend (pictured above) to visit Hungryland, which is what they call their office in LA, in December. We were blown away by their warmth and hospitality, as they shared funny stories while showing us around. Lisa graciously signed copies of her latest book, Hungry Girl Clean and Hungry Obsessed!, for us. You can order your copy here. The decor in Hungryland is fabulous! It’s colorful and fun with several furniture and accessory pieces by Jellio, some of which you probably have seen on Nickelodeon’s iCarly. You can see their cute designs here. Everywhere we turned, there was vibrant color…a purple sofa with orange and green throw pillows and a bright orange rug (see photos). The table in the conference room is surrounded by multicolor chairs…giving off a mod vibe, and neon-lit signs featuring Hungry Girl references like “Chew the Right Thing” are strategically placed. FullSizeRender-10Food-related knick-knacks are the norm at Hungryland, including an ice cream sandwich bench and a portrait of the Hungry Girl logo made from colorful General Mills cereals. All videos for the website are made right there in the Hungryland test kitchen, where you will find the pink small appliances and barstools, and the multicolor knives that are often featured in her videos. Look at the photos of the test kitchen, and you also see a clock made of multicolor spoons and a giant box of Barnum’s Animal Crackers, familiar to all of us from childhood. Oh, what I would have given to decorate my room with that when I was growing up!

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They even have their own photo studio that features a garage door that opens to provide natural light when needed. There are strings of lights hanging from walls, and a Super Hungry Girl logo with veggies for body parts is featured on one wall. In short, it’s incredible! It’s a happy space! What a fun place to get to go to work everyday!

            FullSizeRender-15FullSizeRender-11*If anyone asks you what Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien is like, you can tell them you have it from a reliable source that she is the kind of person you want to hang out with…warm, happy, positive, and she has a great sense of humor. She and Gina (my new fake cousin…you know, those friends you bond with and you feel like they’re your cousins? Well, she’s my new fake cousin. She’s awesome! She’s in the pic with me…wearing the beautiful fluffy collar. I would tell you Lisa is my new fake cousin too, but y’all would never believe me.) went out of their way to make us feel comfortable on their turf as we discussed holiday plans, gifts, and things to do in LA. Lisa Lillien is an absolute doll, and she surrounds herself with other great people…like Gina (also a doll)! Lots of my photos were taken at Hungryland in December. If you’d like to meet Lisa, consider the Hungry Girl Cruise in April. It would be a great girls’ trip! Oh…I so want to go! I’m still trying to figure out how I can make it happen since I return from another vacation just a few days before. For info on the Hungry Girl Cruise, click here.

For those of you who asked about the I Love Not Camping Mug, it’s from Anne Taintor, a line that has all sorts of funny mugs, napkins, and gifts. You may see more from the line in future posts. Silly things make me happy. You can purchase Anne Taintor mugs by clicking here. Nothing rings more true for me than I LOVE NOT CAMPING.

GIVEAWAY INFO!!! **I have an extra copy of the premiere issue of Hungry Girl Magazine and the mug for one lucky follower! Follow my Instagram account (kellymatteisfavoritethings) and tag a friend before 11pm Monday in the comments section under post of the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Mug, and you could win both! A $22.99 value! I will draw a name Tuesday, February 6, and announce it on Instagram! You can access my Instagram account by putting kellymatteisfavoritethings in your Instagram search bar or by clicking here.

My next post will be Tuesday, February 6! Join me then for some more fun and to see who wins!

XOXO,

Kelly

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