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Ring In the New Year: New Year’s Eve Recipes

27 Dec

Have any of you heard of Pinterest? My sister introduced me to recently, and I completely fell in love with it. It took a few tries to get used to (a dear coworker helped me figure this site out when I was ready to throw the towel in), but now I’m hooked. Basically, this site collects content from a ton of different places. I find DIY craft ideas, recipes and more.

So, before the holidays, I printed out several recipes from Pinterest and I decided to make them. You’ll find two here. These two are also perfect for any New Year’s Eve celebrations you might have in store. Make them for yourselves, and let me know what you think too!

Pretzel & Chocolate Treats


One bag of pretzels (I got the square kinds), one bag of M&Ms, one bag of Hershey Kisses


Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Spread pretzels on a cookie sheet, and make sure they are laying flat.

Then, unwrap a million Hershey Kisses, and place them on top of each pretzel.

Now, put the cookie sheet in the oven for just about three minutes. You just want the kiss to get soft. Then, press one M&M into each kiss. I got the red and green variety, but for New Year’s, try the multi-colored kind or order some special ones from the M&M’s website!

Allow to cool completely. I popped mine in the fridge for a few minutes to help the chocolate get firm. Then, eat and enjoy!

Oven-Baked Ham & Cheese Sliders

Ingredients for Sliders

6 good white dinner rolls, 1/2 pound of good honey ham, small slices Swiss cheese, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1/3 cup miracle whip

Ingredients for Poppy Seed Sauce

1 Tablespoon poppy seeds, 1 1/2 Tablespoons spicy yellow mustard, 1/2 cup butter, melted, 1 Tablespoon minced onion, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and miracle whip. Spread onto both sides of the center of each roll. Place a few slices of ham and a slice of Swiss inside of each roll. Close rolls and place them into a large baking dish or heavy cookie sheet. Place very close together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the poppy seed sauce ingredients. Pour evenly over all of the sandwiches. You do not have to use all of the sauce! Just use enough to cover the tops. Let sit 10 minutes or until butter sets slightly. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for 2 additional minutes or until tops are slightly brown and crispy. Serve warm.

And that’s life in a nutshell … finding a new site to get new recipes has been quite delicious in the end. I hope you make these for your New Year’s celebration!



Inside Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen: A Holiday Recipe Swap

16 Dec

Today, I received a special delivery to my inbox from my gal pal Melissa. Melissa and I went to Indiana University together, and we have stayed close friends ever since (See post). Melissa and her boyfriend Matt have always been amazing cooks … Matt literally made a salmon spread after a night of drinking!

Melissa and I on Sanibel Island, the last time we saw each other.

So, it didn’t surprise me at all when I saw Melissa and her sister Kimberly starting a holiday recipe swap. This is what the email said:

Happy Holidays!

We are participating in a collective, constructive, and TASTY experiment. As such, you have been invited to be part of a recipe exchange concept. We hope you will participate. We have picked those we think would make this fun. Please send a recipe to the person whose name is in position 1 (even if you don’t know him/her) and it should be something quick, easy and without rare ingredients. Actually, the best one is the one you know in your head and can type right now.

Don’t agonize over it, it is one you make when you are short of time.

After you’ve sent the recipe to the person in position 1 below and only to that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1 and put your name in position 2. Only my and your name should show when you send your email. Send to 20 friends BCC (blind copy). If you cannot do this within 5 days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating. You should receive 36 recipes. It’s fun to see where they come from! Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas. The turnaround is fast as there are only 2 names on the list and you only have to do it once.

1 – Kimberly  

2 – Melissa

Upon receiving this, I immedately sent Kimberly my apple-pie recipe. And then I sent the email to 20 of my friends, family and coworkers. But then I got to thinking. Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone posted their favorite recipe on my blog and then we could all share in the fun!

This apple pie is amazing! Use a cookie cutter for the crust to keep it seasonal!

So, that is my challenge for you. Find a great recipe and share it as a comment below. Then, I’ll start making them and blogging about each one!

And that’s life in a nutshell … I can’t wait to get my hands on your secret family recipes. Those always taste the best!


Have a Holly Jolly Christmas: My Favorite Things About the Holidays

14 Dec

With Christmas right around the corner, there are a ton of things happening that I just love about the holidays. It’s a magical time of year when life seems pure and innocent. You forget about the stresses of life and you simply enjoy all the jolly spirits around you. So, I have decided to countdown my top 10 favorite things about the season.

1. Santa: Christmas would just not be the same without Santa Claus. He is the mascot that brings everything together. I literally saw Santa riding around town on a giant lighted float yesterday. I wanted to tell him to get back to work, but he just seemed so happy. His rosy cheeks and hearty laugh always put me in the holiday spirit.

2. Holiday Lights: I remember when my dad and mom used to take us kids around Winding Brook neighborhood in Mishawaka, Indiana to look at all the holiday lights. This neighborhood is completely amazing. Nearly every house is completely decked with lights and Christmas displays. And while I didn’t really appreciate being stuck in a car with my whole family during my teen years, I can certainly appreciate the tradition now.

3. Christmas Music: There is nothing like listening to “Jingle Bells” on repeat while you decorate your Christmas tree. I get out all my holiday CDs, and just listen as much as I possibly can. It certainly helps to have this type of music playing when you live in Florida. It can trick my mind into believing it really is December while I put my flip-flops on.

4. Hot Chocolate: There is not many times you can have hot chocolate while you live in Florida, so I take advantage of it when the temperature dips below 60 in the evenings. With the air cranked down to 60 in the house, I whip up a cup of hot chocolate and sprinkle in a few marshmallows on top. And just like that, I have created Christmas in a cup.

5. Shopping: I love shopping all the time, but it is especially true at Christmas. Now, don’t get me wrong. You probably won’t find me in a mall. I completely hate the long lines, the pushing, the disorganization in the stores and swiping my card again and again through the manual machines because each one acts differently from the next. No, no, no … mall shopping is for dummies. I stay online, and the UPS man does all the work. I love finding the perfect present for the ones I love, and I love that they arrive at my door about four days later.

6. Vacation Time: Ok, let’s get real. Everyone loves a day off of work. It is awesome to wake up on a day you should be at work and realize you don’t have to go in. And I LOVE my job. So I know you guys can certainly agree with me. This year, I’m actually able to take three days off around the holidays, and I can’t wait for those days to arrive. Let the Christmas countdown begin.

7. Christmas Pajamas: I love to wear pajamas. You know, those big fleece pajamas with snowflakes or Santas all over them … I can’t get enough of them. Each year, I collect a new pair of holiday pajamas. For some reason, those jammies can just put me in the holiday spirit with their coziness. If you haven’t tried this one, get your butt to Old Navy and pick out your next pair! And mean … if Kim K. can do it …

8. Holiday Movies: I would have to say that I’m completely obsessed with “Elf.” Every time I watch that, I pick up another really funny line that I missed the time before. And I love that the cable channels play it on repeat a million times in case you missed it. “A Christmas Story” is classic, as it takes place in Indiana, my home state, after all. “Scrooged” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” are favorites too!

9. Christmas Breakfast: Ever since I was a little girl, my family sat down to a huge Christmas breakfast on Christmas morning. It has always been a tradition, and we have carried on the tradition into our own home. Biscuits and gravy, eggs, hash browns, fresh OJ and coffee are just a few items on the menu. Of course, that is followed by a holiday nap and then another helping of leftovers. Yum! And it all looks so wonderful on my Christmas china too!


10. Family: And now for my sentimental closing … the holidays are really about spending time with your family. It is about reconnecting with the ones you love, showing them how much you appreciate them and celebrating your lives together. And while the Christmas pajamas and holiday music help us do that, those things wouldn’t mean a thing if we didn’t have family.

And that’s life in a nutshell … now please tell me what your favorite things are about the holiday season.



Thanksgiving Baking: Homemade Apple Pie

27 Nov

Ever since I got an electric mixer for my birthday a few years back, I have loved baking. I make peanut-butter pie quite a bit, and I recently made cupcakes for Halloween. So, when it came to Thanksgiving baking, I knew the desserts would be in my court.

So, I commissioned my aunt Debbie to set me up for a baking challenge: homemade apple pie. Debbie’s apple pie is literally famous in our family. Normally, she has to make about five at a time to keep up with the demands. With my nephew Josh by my side, we took on the famous recipe, adding a few special touches of our own along the way.

I texted Debbie several times along the way with needed direction like “Is this really the right amount of cinnamon” and “How does the crust look.” All and all, I think the end product spoke for itself: four men in complete silence eating homemade apple pie with French vanilla ice cream on top during Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m including the recipe below, along with the recipe for peanut-butter pie! Enjoy baking up these favorite for your family. I know it really made Thanksgiving dinner for me … along with the delicious spread my father-in-law and nephew made. The turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green-bean casserole has been haunting my dreams ever since.

Debbie’s Apple Pie

Peel and core 7­–8 Gala apples; then slice them into thin slices and place into a bowl

Add about 1 cup sugar 

Add about 1/4 cup cinnamon

Add about 2 tablespoons flour 

Stir until all apples are coated

Put apples in to a deep-dish pie crust. Just buy the frozen kind. Pet Ritz is the best. Place 3 or 4 chucks of butter randomly on top of the apples. Please another regular pie crust upside down on the top. Crimp the edges to seal the pie crusts together. Cut decorative slits in the top crust to vent. We used a cookie cutter to make leaf cuts on the top. Brush the top crust lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Leave it longer if you like it a little crispy. To ensure the apples are done, stick a fork in it and make sure they are soft.  If not leave it for another 15 to 20 minutes.  

 MommaNut’s Peanut-Butter Pie

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup 4x powdered sugar

1 graham-cracker crust

Whip cream with sugar until fluffy. Mix all other ingredients in a big electric mixer until smooth. Mix in whipped cream. Pour mix into the crust, and chill for several hours. Garnish with chocolate bits.

And that’s life in a nutshell … my favorite part of baking isn’t the final creation; it’s spending time with my family while we enjoy each and every bite of life.


Easy Dinner: Homemade Sloppy Joe’s

9 Nov

Homemade sloppy joe’s is one of my go-to recipes. It is so easy to make, and everyone seems to love it! I haven’t found one person who didn’t rave over this. The recipe came to me from my cousin Ashley. When she lived in Indiana with our cousin Josh, they developed … and perfected … this delicious dish.

So, when she moved to Florida and we got a place together, that is one of the first things she taught me. And I have been making it ever since. In fact, this is the first dish I cooked for PoppaNut after we said “I do.” And when I visited my sister-in-law and her family in Connecticut, I couldn’t resist sharing it again.

Ingredients: garlic, hamburger meat, hamburger buns, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce (Original and Hickory & Brown Sugar varieties), green peppers and onions.

Directions: Place a spoonful of minced garlic into a large, deep pan and let it cook for a minute on high heat. Then, brown meat and drain. Add in peppers, onions and both sauces (add as much or as little as you want depending on how sloppy you like your sloppy joe’s). Place on warm to let the flavor cook together. I usually toast the buns in our toaster oven, then add the sloppy-joe mix and finish it off with some cheese.

You can serve these open-faced or traditional. Make sure you have lots of napkins on hand because these are quite messy. I usually have to eat mine with a fork!

And I wish I had a wonderful “done” photo to share. However, the delicious scent made all of us gobble them up before I could take one.

And that’s life in a nutshell … making family recipes for dinner is a great way to show your family you love them.


Sundays Are for Sauce

28 Oct

PoppaNut often tells me stories about his childhood. And one of his favorite memories is Sundays at his mom’s house. His mom would make sauce all day long, while Anthony watched football.

For those of you who are not Italian, let me explain this sauce concept. Before I met PoppaNut, I bought my marinara sauce in a bottle on the grocery-store shelf. And honestly, I never considered another option.

Well, that changed when I attended my first Christmas party at PoppaNut’s father’s home. My father-in-law made the most amazing marinara sauce (just called “sauce” by Italians) I had ever tasted. And still now, his vodka sauce haunts my dreams! I literally count down until I can have another bowl! So, that is when I first learned about “sauce.”

 This homemade marinara requires a skilled chef to execute. There are secret recipes and hidden ingredients, and I certainly haven’t mastered this art. I have tried, but I know I just don’t make sauce like my in-laws.


When my mother-in-law was in town last, I tried to spy on her and watch how she made it. She slowly stirs the sauce all day, carefully tasting it along the way. But try as I may, I still can’t master it when she leaves.

Luckily, PoppaNut has taken mercy on me, and taken his hand at making the sauce. And it is unbelievable! He tends to it the same way his mother does, so carefully and skillfully. He takes such pride in every pot he makes, and he loves to see me light up when I take the first bite.


So, every Sunday, PoppaNut carries on his family’s tradition of serving pasta with homemade sauce. It’s a wonderful tradition that we can incorporate into our home, and it makes us feel closer to his family as well. Plus, it allows me to stick with what I do best … making dessert!

And that’s life in a nutshell … while your extended family might not live right down the street, you can find ways to incorporate their traditions into your family.


Kraft Beef Enchiladas

19 Aug

When I got back from my trip, I decided to whip up a homemade recipe for dinner. I ate out enough in San Jose, and I was ready for a homecooked meal.

After a quick trip to the grocery store, I was ready to create! I picked an easy recipe I found on Beef enchiladas is a recipe I have started making … and PoppaNut seems to love it too. I’ve included the recipe you can try it at home too!

What You Need

Kraft Beef Enchiladas Just Out of the Oven

1/2 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1/2 cup  chopped green peppers
1/2 cup chopped red peppers
1-1/2 cups  TACO BELL® HOME ORIGINALS® Thick ‘N Chunky Salsa, divided
1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided
2 Tbsp.  KRAFT Light Zesty Italian Dressing
8 corn tortillas (6 inch)
2 Tbsp.  chopped fresh cilantro

Make It

HEAT oven to 400°F.

BROWN meat with peppers in large nonstick skillet. Stir in 1 cup salsa; simmer 5 min., stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup cheese.

PoppaNut Helping Me in the Kitchen

SPREAD 1/4 cup of the remaining salsa onto bottom of 13×9-inch baking dish. Brush dressing lightly over both sides of tortillas. Stack 4 tortillas; wrap in waxed paper. Microwave on HIGH 20 sec. or just until warmed. Spoon 1/3 cup meat mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Place, seam-sides down, over salsa in dish. Repeat. Top with remaining salsa; cover.

BAKE 20 min. or until heated through. Top with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, 2 to 3 min. or until melted. Top with cilantro.

And that’s life in a nutshell … find an easy recipe that will make you a star in the kitchen and make it for the one you love.

Slammin’ Daiquiri Day

19 Jul

In honor of National Daiquiri Day, I wanted to share a food-related newsletter. “Hungry Girl” is an amazing newsletter that shares a the healthy version of recipes we all love! The founder of this business really shows you that you can eat good and still stay healthy. I love it!

So, try this Slammin’ Slimmed-Down Strawberry Daiquiri recipe from her site. It only has 121 calories per serving! And sign up for the newsletter too, so you’ll receive lots of healthy-food ideas.


One 2-serving packet (about 1 tsp.) sugar-free strawberry powdered drink mix (any

variety, like Crystal Light Strawberry Kiwi or Energy Wild Strawberry)

1 1/2 oz. white rum

1/2 oz. lime juice

3 frozen unsweetened strawberries, slightly thawed

1 cup crushed ice

or 5 – 8 ice cubes


Combine drink mix with 4 oz. cold water in a glass. Stir to dissolve. Transfer to a blender.

Add all other ingredients to the blender, and blend at high speed until slushy and uniform.

Pour into a glass and add a straw. Slurp that baby up!


And that’s life in a nutshell … enjoying a delicious yet healthy daiquiri on National Daiquiri Day is simply blissful.


Oh, oh, Ocean Prime

17 May

Beep, beep, beep … this noise woke me up out of a deep sleep on Saturday afternoon. It was 3:30 p.m. and I had been taking a little afternoon snooze when my phone alarm woke me up. “How odd,” I thought. “I didn’t set my alarm for 3:30 …”

I was just about to go right back to sleep when I noticed a note, written in PoppyNut’s handwritting. As my eyes began to focus, I read: “I hope you are resting. I’m not at home. You can’t text me or call me. Get dressed to impress and be ready at 4:30. I know you will go crazy trying to decide what to wear (No, I’m not wearing jeans.) So put on your bling and get ready to head out. Go upstairs and shower, but first, go the fridge to get your drink.”

Wow, what is happening? A surprise date night? Now, PoppaNut is great at surprises, and he does a ton of sweet things all the time, so this doesn’t surprise me … but at the say time, WOW! What an amazing treat! What’s even more amazing is that PoppaNut managed to make me a drink, set my alarm, write me a note and take his clothes out to the car without me even noticing!

So, I ran to the fridge, grab my drink and headed upstairs. There, the room was filled with lit candles and a card. I’m going to keep some things private, but the card was very sweet. I took a quick shower, fixed my hair, put on my makeup and went to the closet. What do you wear when you don’t know where you are going? A LBD seemed just right, paired with heals and my Otazu Sex in the City necklace (Carrie wore this necklace in the Sex in the City 2 necklace and now its mine!).

The doorbell rang, and there was PoppaNut … dressed up with a crisp, collared shirt and fresh flowers. It was quite romantic. He took me out on date night, to Ocean Prime in Tampa. We went there on our six-month anniversary as boyfriend and girlfriend, and here we were again. We had the most delicious food … and the best drink. I had a Berries and Bubbles, pictured here. YUMMY!

We took dessert to go … and headed home to spend some quiet time together. It was amazing, and reminds me how lucky I am to have PoppaNut in my life. And that’s life in a nutshell … remembering to surprise your special someone every now and again with a truly wonderful night.


Sunday Dinner

16 May

As I mentioned last week, I had decided to make PoppaNut something very special on Saturday night for dinner. Turns out, he beat me to the punch and surprised me with an amazing date night (more to come tomorrow). So, I dusted off my old recipe book on Sunday to dream something extra special up.

Turns out, there is a dish that I haven’t made in a while that PoppaNut loves. I used to make it for him when we were dating and I was living with my cousin Ashley. It’s pretty simple, and it makes amazing leftovers.

Here is the recipe. I’ve included notes where I make exceptions.

Sunday Dinner3 cups (8 oz.) farfalle (bow-tie pasta), uncooked
4 cups  broccoli florets
3 Tbsp. KRAFT Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan Dressing
6 small  boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.) (I cut this into little pieces instead)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups  tomato-basil spaghetti sauce
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
1/4 cup  KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
COOK pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the cooking water for the last 3 min. of the pasta cooking time. Meanwhile, heat dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook 5 min. Turn chicken over; continue cooking 4 to 5 min. or until chicken is cooked through (170ºF).

DRAIN pasta mixture in colander; return to pan and set aside. Add spaghetti sauce and Neufchatel to chicken in skillet; cook on medium-low heat 2 to 3 min. or until Neufchatel is completely melted, mixture is well blended and chicken is coated with sauce, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm. Add sauce mixture to pasta mixture; mix well. Transfer to six serving bowls.

CUT chicken crosswise into thick slices; fan out chicken over pasta mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese.

So, we watched our recorded “Saturday Night Live” and hung out on the couch eating this delicious dish. And that’s life in a nutshell … eating a favorite dish with your favorite person on a Sunday evening.


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