Raise your hands if you love coffee!
IF you’re not raising your hand, you can excuse yourself from my page. No, I’m only kidding – you can stay. But be warned there is a lot of coffee talk here.
Before we dive into the joy of coffee, let’s talk about Christmas. Can you believe it’s in less than 3 weeks? However, I will say, I have my life a little more together this year than I have in the past. Most of my gifts are ordered and shipped; my Christmas tree is set up and decorated; and my house is decked with hundreds of twinkling lights, festive ferns and hand-knit stockings. As much credit as I’d like to take for this, I owe a lot of it to my family (who helped decorate).
And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Despite having my life together on paper, I wouldn’t have done it without the help of my favorite coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts® (which you can easily buy at Walmart with a $1.00 off coupon via Ibotta). It’s been #DunkinToTheRescue this month
My husband loves their original blend, while I prefer the sweeter varieties, like Blueberry Muffin, Vanilla Cupcake and Cinnamon Roll. I think much of that has to do with the fact that I love these items when they’re not coffee, so it’s only fitting I’d love their flavors mixed in my morning joe.
I recently paired up with Dunkin’ Donuts® to share my tips for holiday survival, which ironically enough, includes their coffee! Aside from that, here are a few other things that have kept me sane this holiday season, despite a packed travel schedule, 9-5 job and busy social life.
Ask for help!
This is a BIG one, and is one of my biggest saving graces during the holidays. I’m normally a very “do it yourself” kind of person (thanks to my slightly OCD personality). As much as I prefer to handle the baking, decorating and wrapping myself, it can be far more stressful to do this. Thankfully, I’ve opened up to more help through the years, which has made my holiday season 10x more enjoyable. This year, I was lucky enough to have my parent’s help with holiday home decorating and my husband’s help with gift buying. Plus, my work friend has agreed to help me bake and decorate cookies and sweets. Even if you’re a perfectionist like me, you’ll quickly see that it’s more fun when you have someone help you.
Make (and bake) in advance
This goes for anything, whether it’s cookies, Christmas dinner or homemade gifts. My mom, as you know, makes thousands of Christmas cookies a year. There was a time she would stay up for 3 solid days, baking, whisking and frosting. Now, after a few too many years frazzled, she spends a few weeks preparing for our families favorites. To store, she simply freezes her delectable sweets in freezer bags until it’s time to enjoy. We’ve taken this same mentality with our Christmas Eve preparations. We make the dips, the cheese trays and the big sides a few days before, then focus on heating, serving and plating the day of. I can’t tell you how much stress this has prevented. Plus, it allows us to talk with our guests and catch up with family members – instead of sweating over a stove.
Simplify your celebration
One trend I’ve noticed lately (and can get behind 100%) is simplifying the holiday season. For many, that means adding less decorations and having a cleaner, fresh look (like my aunts simple green centerpieces from a few years ago). For others, that means buying less presents for kids and focusing only on a few that really matter. For my family, that means simplifying the Christmas menu with just an entree, a side and a few desserts. So many people think the holidays have to be opulent, decadent and flashy to be perfect when really, none of those things matter. Focus on what matters most to your family, and you, and your holiday is guaranteed to be more pleasurable.
Give edible gifts
Despite being in a job that gives me more financial freedom than ever, I’m still very cautious with my money. And it’s very, very easy to go overboard (especially for me) during the holiday season. To keep spending at bay (and give more meaningful gifts, to be honest) I’ve starting sending edible presents to friends, colleagues and clients. In the past, I’ve made little pound cakes, soft-baked cookies or hot chocolate mixes in mason jars. This year, I’m going to add in a bag of my favorite Dunkin’ Donuts® Coffee! Or, to those who I really love, a Dunkin’ Donuts® gift basket, complete with homemade cookies.
As fun as gifts are, the most important thing to remember is making time for your loved ones. Don’t let the stresses of the season prevent you from enjoying those precious moments. Because in the end, people don’t remember the gifts or even the food, they remember the memories. And isn’t that what matters most about this time of year, anyway?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dunkin’ Donuts® . The opinions and text are all mine.
There is nothing better than homemade bread. Seriously. You can try to say other things, like fluffy cupcakes or homemade pasta, are better – but I’ve got a really strong argument for soft, bakery-style homemade bread. And if you need to know what the argument is – you should probably leave this blog and NEVER COME BACK.
Sorry, I’m really sensitive about carbs right now, mainly because I’m trying to cut back on them. I hear the word “bread” and see red. I didn’t even mean for that to rhyme. Okay…moving on.
With as busy as I’ve been the past month, it’s the simple touches of homemade that I crave lately. Even though I’ve been working INSANE hours, am traveling every weekend this month and have a 2 week cruise to Europe in two weeks (omg – I sound so pretentious, I’m sorry), I’ve been cooking even more than I used to. Crock pot beef stew, the world’s best pumpkin muffins, spiced hard cider – you name it, I’ve made it. I like to think it’s because I feel bad for my husband because I’m constantly leaving, but I also think it’s because I love home-cooked meals. When you’re on the road as much as I am, you crave something that isn’t fried, rich, cheesy or heavy. (Says a girl who just got back from the Midwest).
To be honest, I’m not a great bread baker. For every 5 loaves I make, maybe 2 turn out. I just can’t seem to make them rise or look like they should. So when I found this recipe for easy no-knead bread and took a stab, I had VERY low expectations. When it came out, with a golden brown crust and a soft, melt in your mouth inside, I nearly fainted.
I was recently asked by The J.M. Smucker Company to create some unique tips for using a new product and I wanted to share with you how much I LOVE IT. I chose their blueberry lemon jam (which you can find at any Walmart!) and nearly died when I added it to my bread. Unlike many jams (which are loaded with sugar), this one is sweetened naturally with honey. I’m not a huge jam fan, but this stuff is incredible. It’s sweet without being too sweet, full of fresh, plump berries and just a dash of lemon.
In fact, I’m already planning a few other delicious ways to use it in my favorite recipes, so don’t be surprised if you see this tart jam in fluffy muffins, danishes, cakes and even brownies in the next coming weeks. Or, don’t be surprised if you see me eating it with a spoon on instagram when I’ve hit a sugar low. Let’s just go with the second option since that’s clearly a larger possibility given my HOLYCOWICANTEVEN life status.
Easy No Knead Bread
Serves about 8.
Prep time: 2 hours & 40 minutes
Cook time: 18 minutes
Total time: About 3 hours
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- Dash of fresh salt
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
For the topping:
- J.M. Smucker Company Blueberry Lemon Honey & Fruit jam
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt and yeast together.
- Add in the warm water, a little at a time, and stir after each addition. The mixture will be a little sticky. Grease a bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough into that bowl. Turn the oven off, cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise until doubled (about 2 1/2 hours).
- Line a crock pot or baking dish with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Remove dough from the oiled bowl, place on a lightly floured surface and carefully form into a soft ball. Place in the baking dish and let rest for about 45 minutes.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees.
- After it’s rested, place in the oven, cover and bake for about 22 minutes. Remove the cover and bake another 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let cool. Once cooled, slice and serve with butter and Smucker’s Fruit & Honey Jam!
Nutritional information per slice (with 1 tablespoon butter & 1 teaspoon jam):
Fat: 6.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 30 grams
Fiber: 2.2 grams
Protein: 4.5 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 4
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of JM Smuckers. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.
I’ve been a daydreamer for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I’d spend hours writing elaborate tales on computer paper (in crayon – of course) about princesses and dragons. I’d run around my grandparents front lawn with plastic alligators, feeding them on my grandpa’s many prized bushes and plants (much to his dismay). I’d construct these incredible elaborate tales for my Barbies and Polly Pockets, ones of love, heartbreak and even war. My imagination has always one of my best friends.
And unlike many people who lose their sense of adventure and creativity with age, mine only seems to deepen. Except now, instead of princess and dragon daydreams, mine are more realistic, with tales of running away to Paris, sunset shooting in South America or opening a restaurant in Bangkok.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately daydreaming – not for lack of work fulfillment or a busy schedule, mind you. For work! Both in my full-time job and for my blog, I’ve been daydreaming new recipes, putting together once-in-a-lifetime trips and new short stories. That’s why when I immediately jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with Tap Influence on discussing what my dream partnership would be, if I could choose.
I’ve worked with so many incredible brands in my 5 year stint as a food blogger and recipe creator. From KitchenAid to Bob’s Red Mill to Le Creuset, my house is decorated with amazing products and stunning props thanks to these partnerships. These are total dream-worthy brands, my friends. So thinking of one that I haven’t worked with that’s a dream was a bit harder than I thought.
That was until I got my daily email from Anthropologie. And it hit me, really. If I could pick any brand in the world to work with, it would be them. All of my fellow food bloggers can probably understand why too, of course. Their plates, bowls, napkins and measuring spoons are so incredibly beautiful, it’s almost hard to use them. Painted in elaborate detail, with flowers, animals and designs, they truly bring any food photo to life. However, my dream partnership wouldn’t be with food – it would be the perfect party spread.
Photo via Anthropologie.
I’ve long lusted after bloggers who post stunning tablescapes, and if I had my way, I’d work with Anthropologie to create the most perfect one. The plates would be mismatched, the flowers would be succulent and abundant, there would be so many rustic elements adding character to the spread – like vintage door knobs, antique napkin rings and farmhouse napkins. The glasses would be elegant with gold trims. Instead of simple lights, the room would be decorated with hundreds of bulbs, mason jar lanterns and string lights.
Photo via Wedding Party App.
If I close my eyes and envision what it would look like, it would be a beautiful mix of these.
Photos 1, 2, 3.
To be honest, I’ve created this stunning tablescape in my head for years, with some slight variations as I grow older. Instead the prim and proper centerpieces I used to love, this one would have messy bouquets with long stems and draping ferns. Instead of a tablecloth, I’d have a burlap runner with a lace overlay. It would be my version of Alice in Wonderlands Tea Party, without the crazed Mad Hatter of course.
Image via Want That Wedding.
Now I have this insatiable desire to spend all of my take home pay on things to bring this to life. So, don’t be surprised if you see this happening on my blog in the next few weeks. Here’s hoping my dream comes true and Anthropologie offers to sponsor it
Now I ask you, friends, fans and amazing food bloggers – what would your dream partnership be and why?
Brands are searching for voices like yours. A TapInfluence profile is a great way to attract attention from top brands who are eager to work with influencers on sponsored content. To get started, create your free profile here.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of TapInfluence, the leader in connecting influencers with opportunties to collaborate with brands.
Two posts in one week – can you believe it? After the crazy (read: exhausting) week I’ve had, this is a big merit. My new job is amazing, but busy – like here until 6:30 pm every night busy – so I haven’t had anytime to live. But, it’s Saturday and my very favorite day of the week deserves some dessert.
So here’s some dessert! Not just any ol’ dessert either – this one is low-fat, fruity and absolutely gorgeous. (The trifecta of awesome for all desserts, I believe). To be honest, it’s another one I’ve had in my arsenal for MONTHS, and one I made for an amazing client Friendship Dairies! If you haven’t tried their products, do it. They turned me from a cottage cheese hater to a bonafide FIEND in just the matter of weeks.
Recipe talk aside – I’m truly so shocked it’s almost October. Like I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. Honestly, this whole year feels a bit like a blur. I mean, that’s to be expected with a big job change, a move and a handful of international trips. It’s just crazy how fast it’s all going. I’ve already been at my new job for over a week and it’s already been a month since my last jaunt abroad. I’m incredible grateful for these adventures that make my life seem to whiz by – I just wish it would slow down JUST A SECOND so I could catch my breath.
One thing I’ve always struggled with is making the most of my time at home. Now that I’m not traveling as much as I used to, I’ve noticed my old ways have caught up to me, and more of my free time is spent doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong, doing nothing can be AMAZING. But not when you’re doing it 5 days a week. I’m a big “get out and do things on the weekend” kind of girl, but I don’t apply that same vigor for life on the weekdays. Sure, it’s harder to do things after a long day of work – but I need to. I need to plan more date nights out of the house or jaunts to the city.
It sounds crazy but I don’t know if I’ll live here forever and not taking advantage of everything this awesome city of mine has to offer will end up being something I regret. Working friends – how do you de-rut your weekdays? Date nights? Lunch outings? I need suggestions! In the meantime, I’ll be face first into these cheesecake bars.
Low Fat Raspberry Pomegranate Cheesecake Bars
Serves about 12.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
For the crust:
- 1 ½ cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- Dash of cinnamon
For the bars:
- 8 ounce container of softened low-fat cream cheese
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup small curd low fat Friendship cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
- 1/3 cup pomegranate or raspberry jam
- Fresh mint for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
- To make the crust, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Press the crust into the parchment paper and press down with the back of a spatula. Bake crust for about 9 – 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Blend the cottage cheese into a blender until smooth and fluffy. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and add cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice – beat until creamy and thick.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and mix in two tablespoons of pomegranate arils. Add the jam with a small spoon and place on the top of the cheesecake. Using the same spoon, swirl the jam around.
- Bake for about 32 – 25 minutes, or until fully cooked.
- Chill for at least 2 hours then cut into squares and serve with mint and remaining pomegranate arils.
Nutritional information per bar:
Fat: 8.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 30.25 grams
Fiber: 2.25 grams
Protein: 5.2 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6
I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a change in seasons in my entire life. As you know, fall is my favorite for many reasons (most of which any #basic white girl will tell you). Even though PSLs, sweaters, boots and foliage top the list, another big reason has me equally as excited. This change of seasons bring with it a brand new JOB for me. I may have alluded to it in another post, but it’s 100% official.
And guess what? It’s ALL travel. Every single day I get to write narratives on incredible places, like Cuba, Italy and Malta, for incredible print publications (that I’ll share soon). Not only that, I get to write copy for an incredible variety of amazing clients (that I’ll also share later – they are HUGE!). I get to up my travel with these awesome clients, will finally have my name (and photos!) in print and only have to drive a quick 8 minutes to get to work.
I don’t know how I go so lucky with this one, but I did. I’m still pinching myself that this is my real life.
All of that exciting news aside, I’m here to share an amazing new recipe with you. It’s literally fall in a big, hearty bowl. Not only will this buffalo chicken chili warm your bones on these (incredible!) brisk nights, it’s the ultimate game-day meal. Instead of messy wings, make a big batch of this chili and enjoy it with your favorite lager while you watch hours of Football.
Or, if you’re me, enjoy it with your favorite wine while you catch up on episodes of American Horror Story. Whatever tickles your fancy!
Chunky Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Chili
Serves about 6.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: About 6 – 8 hours
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 large onions, finely chopped
- 2 cups chopped carrots
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 20 ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained
- 1/4 – 1/3 cup buffalo sauce*
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts**
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Salt and pepper
- About 1 cup blue cheese crumbles
- Fresh cilantro or celery leaves for garnish
*Add more for added heat
**Can use boneless, skinless chicken wings as well
- Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add in the onions, carrots and celery and cook until just softened, about 6 – 7 minutes.
- Rinse the chicken breasts and place into the bottom of the crock pot. Add the cooked vegetables, drained beans, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, buffalo sauce, chili powder and salt and pepper. Stir the ingredients together.
- Cover and cook on low for about 6 1/2 hours. Remove chicken from crock pot, shred and add back.
- Cook another hour. Remove from crock pot and serve with chunks of fresh blue cheese and garnish.
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat: 12.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 27.2 grams
Fiber: 9 grams
Protein: 28 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7