S’mores Bash in a Bucket:Hershey’s Camp Bondfire

It’s been blazing hot in Arizona; if we aren’t at the pool we are indoors with the air conditioning at full blast!  Hershey’s has a terrific campaign going on right now to celebrate family, friends, memorable moments and summer,  called Camp Bondfire.  On their facebook page, they are giving away a fire pit and s’mores skewer set to fans who sign up to be campers.  How fun is THAT?

With Tucson’s triple degree temperatures, I decided to take my s’mores party indoors. While I love sitting around a fire, the weather just doesn’t support it.  I almost think our little party worked out better this way, though.  I had the kids help me line graham crackers on a pan with a Hershey’s square on each cracker and a marshmallow on top.  I put them in the oven for a few minutes and then let the kids put the s’mores together.  They were a big hit.  HUGE!

The only issue we had was Paige having a complete meltdown once she realized she could not eat ALL the s’mores herself.  I sent all the kids home was some s’mores in their buckets and told them to share the bash in their buckets with family members at home.

Look at this sad face, as she tries to stuff as many s’mores into her mouth as possible!

If you need some inspiration, and you’re looking to create memorable moments with your family head on over to Hershey’s facebook page, where you’ll find an interactive application.  A terrific group of bloggers from The Motherhood will serve as camp counselors,  share their own special memories and ideas on how to create new ones with your own families.

Disclosure: This post is part of my participation in the Hershey’s Camp Bondfire campaign, but all opinions expressed are 100%  my own.

Cinco de Mayo Margaritas!

It would really be a shame if you only made these margaritas today. I am hoping that you will enjoy them all weekend long. Heck, all summer long and then perhaps into fall. Or maybe for Christmas Eve. This will be your new favorite marg recipe for sure. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a marg connesiour of sorts. Not that there is a licensing committe that has relegated this honor upon me or anything, but let’s just say that the margarita and I? We have been around the block a few times. That block has gotten progressively  blurry a few times, but that doesn’t matter, does it?

Now if you are still using that awful pre-made mix to which you just add tequila? Or even worse,  the ones with the tequila already mixed in? You need to move into the new milennium. Really people, those are packed with sugar and artificial colors and flavors. Not that I mind those things when I am eating an Oreo, mind you. But for the love of all that is good….take a few steps and make it a bit more fresh. You won’t regret it! Here’s what you need to get people hanging from the chandeliers make this recipe!

1 Container of Minutemaid Limeade (found in the freezer section of most grocery stores, and not the itty bitty ones)

Tequila (not the Jose Hornitos kind, either)

Triple Sec

2 fresh limes

Gran Marinier (this will set you back a few but lasts forever and is fully responsible for the awesomeness of this drink)

Salt (optional)

Okay. Salt the rim of your glasses if you like. And if not, I will just call you wussy. No, that’s fine….some of my most upstanding friends like their margs saltless! I don’t judge. Keep limeade mix in freezer till ready to party use. Take out one half of mix and reserve in a different container. Empty other half into blender. Fill half way again with tequila. (I use Jose Gold, but if you are packin’ the Patron, more power to ya!) Fill one quarter full with Triple Sec and add. Squeeze juice of both limes in blender as well. Fill to the brim with ice. Mix will be thick, but softens to a loveliness over just a few minutes. Here’s the key!!! Pay attention. Don’t drink yet! Slowly drizzle some Gran Marinier over the top of each drink. Now taste. Aha! Who’s your momma now? Wait, don’t answer that! I am only two peoples’ mama. That I know for sure. Okay, drink up, put on some Tito Cruz and get dancin’!

How to Create the Perfect Cheese Platter

If there is one thing that I always have at every gathering it’s a delicious, rich, cheese platter.  I am not talking about the mixed cheese cubes you buy at the grocery, heavens no! For a couple of bucks more I like to wow my guests with a variety of cheeses that are gone before we get to the appetizers.

What types of cheese do I serve?  Here is the low down on the types, costs and the reasons I think you should serve a cheese platter too.

Goat Cheese: This is a simple cheese that has a rich and tangy taste with a smooth crumbly texture.  It pairs well with crackers and preserves.  My favorite way to pair goat cheese is with raspberry preserves.  You’ll find it wrapped in a 4-8oz log and it is very affordable.  Look for a pristine white color when buying your goat cheese.

Cheddar Cheese: You won’t find soft mild cheddar meant for sandwiches on my platter.  Cheddar is everyone’s favorite cheese, so why not move on up to something fancier?  A nice aged cheddar will bring plenty of flavor to your platter.  I also like an English-style cheddar but if you don’t find it you can get the Vermont aged.  Cheddar goes great with apple slices.

Blue Cheese: Embrace the funk.  The “moldy” blues might scare some people but if it wasn’t good they wouldn’t make an entire dressing to celebrate it!  Oh how I love blue cheese.  My grandmother used to cook it with so many things!  I love blue cheese paired with cherry tomatoes.  If you want something milder and sweeter try Gorgonzola cheese.

Sheep Cheese: Haven’t heard of it? You are really missing out!  Being that I am from Spain I grew up with Manchego cheese on every sandwich, salad, cheese platter… Manchego everywhere!  Look for “curado” or “aged” for a stronger sharper cheese.  Aged Manchego is firm and salty while the young milder Manchego is softer and sweeter (great for grilled cheese sandwiches).

Triple Creme Cheese: Say hello to my favorite cheese! Brie! This cheese is ultra rich and its triple cream cousins will melt in your mouth they are so delicious!   Triple cream usually means around 75% butterfat but the Brie comes in at a leaner 45%.  Do yourself a favor and don’t get reduced fat versions; they are rubbery and not as decadent.

How to put together a good platter?  Grab a variety of each cheese and find something to pair it with.  Not every cheese should be eaten with crackers so it’s ok to serve alongside fruit (grapes), bread, or nuts.

Enjoy!

 

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Cool Weather Calls for Chili

Just when I think I can’t HANDLE the truth regarding the change of seasons in Phoenix (cue Jack Nicholson voice); we get a cold front that upends us all and has us running from our cars into the already busy Starbucks to get some piping hot concoction that will make up 1/4 of our daily allotment of calories, (THANK YOU VERY MUCH EGG NOGG LATTE!). Wow, what a long sentence that was! I digress. It’s been cold here, and I actually kind of love it. I refuse to complain about it, I just wear more clothes on my morning runs. Every morning for the past week, the temp has started with a 3, as in 36, 38, 34, 33, etc. This morning, NYC and Phoenix were the same temperature, according to Syrie. Syrie is the new woman in my husband’s life. Syrie, if you don’t know and haven’t heard, is the voice of all authority and knowledge in the iphone, and lately, well she has been answering a lot of his questions. He kind of crushes on Syrie. I refuse to worry until she figures out how to make his favorite Penne alla Vodka, or until he starts wondering what she looks like “in real life.” Back off Syrie!

One of my favorite things to make, as it cools down, is an assortment of soups and chilis. I have some great white bean chili, some chicken chili and the like. But sometimes, nothing beats a good ole’ fashioned meat and bean chili with a little kick, and this one fits the bill. I also like to bake, pick up some fresh Sourdough bread for dipping, but you can go with whatever tickles your fancy, or just eat it plain. The kids will love it too. On a side note, it looks like you are adding a LOT of cayenne, but with the heartiness of the tomatoes and beans and meat, it doesn’t taste too spicy at all. I like to make mine with extra lean ground beef and turkey sausage, but again, whatever makes your skirt fly up is just fine. Start this chili early afternoon, let it simmer a bit, pop open some Zin or a hearty Cab, and voila! The stuff dreams are made of. Let’s get down to it.

ALL AMERICAN CHILI:

6 oz hot italian turkey sausage (I use 8)

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

8 garlic cloves (I know!! Yet it never tastes too garlicky)

1 lb lean ground beef

1 jalapeno, chopped

2 T Chili powder (large T is for Tablespoon, small t for teaspoon)

2 T Brown sugar

1 T ground Cumin

3 T Tomato paste

1 t dried oregano

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

2 Bay leaves

1 and 1/4 cup Merlot or other fruity wine (See! Aren’t you glad you already have some open?)

2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained

2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained

1/2 cup low fat or regular sharp cheddar cheese

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over med high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients to pan; cook 8 mins or until sausage and beef are browned and crumbling. Add chili powder and the next 7 ingredients and cook for 1 min, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, tomatoes, and beans, bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 30 mins, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaves (if you can find them:)) Sprinkle each serving with some cheese, low fat sour cream, and green onions.

Holiday Entertaining: Easy Mediterranean Appetizers

Want to get away from the classic bowl of hummus served with pita chips?  Try something fancier and just as easy this year.  I came across this picture on Whole Living this week and I had to try this combo and see if my favorite hummus recipe worked well!…and it does! I love the idea of slicing up cucumbers and pre-serving hummus on top.  Talk about easy finger food!  Once you try my recipe, you’ll make this a staple.  The garnishing options are endless! I love kalamata olives or a tad of pesto on top of my hummus… but you can do so many variations,  you’ll wow your guests!

Ingredients:

Hummus Recipe Courtesy of MOMablesLunch Menus

  • 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 TB Tahini
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

What you’ll need:

  • Thyme leaves for garnish
  • Coarse ground pepper
  • English cucumbers 2-3 or more if you double recipe
  • Roasted Red peppers, cut into small strips
  • Kalamata Olives

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine chickpeas, lemon juice, thyme, garlic, oil, and 1/4 cup water; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and process until combined.
  2. Dividing evenly, dollop chickpea puree onto cucumber slices, top with a roasted red pepper strip and thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

 

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Breakfast Burrito with Skillet Bacon Jam

We make some mean breakfast burritos around my house.  And when we aren’t making breakfast burritos, we make breakfast sandwiches.  They usually consist of a whole grain English muffin, one egg, a piece of bacon, a slice of Vermont cheddar and a dab of hot sauce, sometimes some avocado.  This morning I changed things up a bit because I came across a new product that I’ve been dying to try.  Skillet Bacon Jam.  I wish I could stick a wick in it and light this little container, so the entire house would smell as good as what’s inside this jar.

bacon jam

 

To get this this container of awesomeness, the company says you take a “big bunch of really, really good bacon and render it down…add a bunch of spices, onions, etc. and let it simmer for about 6 hours, give it a quick puree, blast chill it…take a left turn, and end up in pure bacon heaven.”  If you like bacon, you will love this stuff!

It made a great addition to my breakfast tortilla.  Here’s the recipe.

  • One Tortilla Land tortilla (I could never find these on the East Coast, so my MIL would send them to me from Arizona)
  • 2 eggs
  • Cheese (whatever kind you like best)
  • 1/4 avocado
  • hot sauce
  • Spread a little bacon jam on your tortilla, add eggs,  cheese, avocado & hot sauce

If you’re not into breakfast burritos, and you are looking for a little inspiration, check out  Skillet Street Food’s website for some fun recipes using  bacon jam.  Let me know what you think of it! You can also email the company directly at eat@skilletstreetfood.com.

Disclaimer: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Crock-pot White Bean Pumpkin Soup

It’s fall and nothing says it more so that some key ingredients that bring comfort into a meal.  The past few weeks I’ve been testing a lot of recipes with pumpkin as an ingredient… but most were desserts.  One night, I had 1 cup of pumpkin puree left over from a muffin recipe I had baked the day before.  On a whim, I decided to mix it into the white bean soup I was making.  The result, a delicious and comforting bowl of fall goodness.  This was so popular among my family that I packaged it the next day for lunch!

Ingredients: -makes 4-6 servings-

  • 1 Medium onion, chopped small
  • 1 TB Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 15oz can white beans, drained and rinsed.
  • ¾ Cup diced carrots (4 medium carrots)
  • 4-6 Cups Vegetable stock (ok to sub. for chicken stock)
  • 1 tps oregano
  • ½ tps black pepper

Directions:

  1. Chop onions and garlic.
  2. Turn on crock-pot to a medium/low setting.
  3. Add all ingredients into crock-pot.  Stir to combine.
  4. Cook on medium/low 4hrs.
  5. You can leave it “chunky” as pictured, or puree to a smooth texture.

Enjoy!

Photo Courtesy of MOMables lunch menus.

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Pumpkin Spiced Smoothie (all the taste, none of the guilt!)

A few years ago I stopped buying flavored creamer for my coffee because of all the ingredients.  If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t really want it in my body.  My motto is, “most things, in moderation, are okay .”  That being said, I drink coffee seven days a week, not just on occasion.  I was so excited to learn about Coffee-mate’s new Natural Bliss line, featuring just four ingredients in each of its three flavors.  The Natural Bliss line currently comes in Caramel, Vanilla and Sweet Cream.  I have always been a fan of Coffee-mate, but recently I had only been buying it around the holidays.  With this new line, I can feel good about adding it to each cup of coffee.  I picked up a bottle of the Sweet Cream and it was delish!  Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t also pick up a small bottle of the Peppermint Mocha or Belgian Chocolate Toffee (those yummy flavors Coffee-mate is known for), because we all deserve to indulge a little around the holidays.  😆

pumpkin smoothieThis recipe, courtesy of the Foot Network’s Claire Robinson, should get you in the mood for the holidays.

Pumpkin Spiced Smoothie

 

  • 1-1/2 cups ice
  • 1 (6 oz.)  low fat coffee yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup NEW all-natural Coffee-mate Natural Bliss Sweet Cream

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    Lunch Indulgence: Grilled Pear & Brie Sandwich

    There are a few indulgences that even a pregnant woman can’t resist.  Chocolate and Brie are my downfall.  Seriously, how can one resist the sweet deliciousness of French Brie?  I love it on toast, with crackers, in omelet, sandwiches… and the list goes on.

    The other day, I was left to my own devices to prepare lunch when a business lunch meeting was cancelled (I usually pre-make my lunches ahead of time and have them ready).  It was a Friday and the fridge was empty of our lunch items and leftovers were scarce.  Good thing there was Brie!! The outcome as a sweet delicious grilled sandwich that will soon be placed in one of our MOMables menus (my kids loved this sandwich too).

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Slices of bread
    • Sliced Brie
    • 1 pear, sliced thin
    • Butter/spray for grilling

    Directions:

    1. Slice pear and Brie.
    2. Place sliced pear and brie on bread and close.
    3. Spread or spray butter on bread.
    4. Grill

    Enjoy!

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    Chili-Garlic Roasted Broccoli (You Will Love This!!)

    roasted broccoliI do not like cooked broccoli.  Well, I used to not like it, that is, until my friend made me this.

    O.M.G. I had to share this recipe with you.  Not sure where my fellow TV buddy, Maria Neider, came up with the recipe, but one thing is certain….I can’t get enough!   Here’s what you’ll need:

    1/2 cup of Olive oil

    10-12 cloves of finely chopped garlic

    2 T chili powder

    2 T  McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning

    2 large heads of broccoli cut into thin long spears

    DIRECTIONS:

    Preheat oven to 425. Combine ingredients in large bowl and toss to coat. Spread on baking sheet. Roast broccoli until crisp and slightly brown. 17-20 minutes. HINT: Do NOT Salt and pepper or it will be WAY too salty.

     

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