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Food & Drink Ideas for the 4th of July

Told ya guys, this is proof right here that I have a thing for coordinating outfits for the 4th of July…and with food apparently.  Today I’m sharing a few food and drink ideas perfect for your 4th of July spread or just a quick treat :-).  With the exception of the cake, these are all super easy to make -always a win!  In all honesty, the cake isn’t that hard either, but I’ll explain what I mean later on and you can decide.  If ya like this outfit, scroll all the way to the end of this post for some similar linked items.  I got the shirt from Express a couple years ago and the shorts I can’t even remember!?

4th of July Style, Cake, Sangria

I’ve got 5 ideas that I’m sharing with you today.  I’m going to list these goodies out starting with my most favorite (if I had to pick) and then work down.

1 – Sweet Summer Sangria

This drink pick probably comes as no surprise to those of you that know me.  I think it’s hard to top a solid Sangria on a hot summer day when it comes to adult beverages.  I’ve tried my fair share of recipes for Sangria and have had many fails; however, this Sweet Summer Sangria is a keeper, coming with nodding approvals from 6 other individuals (7 if ya count me).  You’ll need the following for this refresher:

  • 1 Bottle of Wine – Pheasant Hollow Winery Red & Blue
  • 1 Bottle of Wine – yellow tail Big Bold Red
  • 10 oz. Sweet Vermouth (I used Tribuno)
  • 32 oz. Cranberry Juice
  • 20 oz. Grenadine (I used Finest Call)
  • 1/4 content of Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
  • 8 oz. Simple Syrup
  • Water (to your liking)
  • 3 Oranges (sliced)
  • Strawberries (I used about 1.5 Cups of frozen strawberries because I wanted to keep the fresh strawberries we had on hand for our boys to eat -fresh would make it even better)
  • Ice (to your liking)

How do you make it?  Simply throw all the above into a container!  Told ya, super easy.  I think for the best results, you’ll want this to sit for at least a few hours to soak up all the flavor -though, it is defiantly still drinkable (and tasty) if you decide to do this last minute. I made mine the night before so it sat for about 15 hours before serving.  You’ll note that for the water and ice I said “to your liking.”  I just kept adding both of these until I was satisfied with the taste, I think different tastebuds will have various preferences on this.  When I think about it, I probably added AT LEAST 20 oz. water and 40 oz. of ice over the 15 hour period of time.  So, good news is without adding any water, the drink is strong enough to keep adding ice without it becoming watered down.  At 6 o’clock the next day it still tasted delicious.  Serve over ice regardless of what you decide to do.

4th of July Sangria & Red Velvet Cake

2 – Red (Velvet), White, & Blue Cake

Okay, so I mentioned above that this was the one treat on this list that is not easy to make…but then also proceeded to say that it actually isn’t that difficult.  So let me explain.  The actual mixing and baking of the cake is “a piece of cake” -HA…if ya read any of my other posts, you’ve got to be used to how corny I am by now 🙂 sorry I am not sorry.  Where it can become difficult is stacking and frosting the cake -though you can completely avoid that by making this in the form of a sheet cake or even cupcakes!  For the 3 layered cake that I made above, I used the following:

  • 1 Box Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix (-Yes, a box mix!!)
  • 1 Cup Low Fat Sour Cream
  • 1.5 Tsp. Imitation Vanilla
  • 4 Eggs (guys I never pay attention to what size these are, I use them all the same)
  • 1/2 Cup Skim Milk
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 3.5 oz. Chocolate Pudding Mix
  • Sprinkle of Salt
  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • I used Wicked Good Kitchen’s Recipe for Best Ever Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting – check her page out for recipe and ingredients!

How do you make it?  Mix all of the ingredients together from the Cake Mix down to the Sprinkle of Salt until smooth.  Generously spray 3 cake pans (9 inch), pour the batter equally into each, and use the baking time/temp on the cake mix box as a starting point.  I periodically check the cakes with a fork and remove from the oven when the fork comes out clean.  Let your cakes (cake, cupcakes, etc.) cool and frost with your frosting of choice.  I froze my cakes and then frosted, I’ll be adding a tutorial for that at a later date here. Top with fresh berries and refrigerate until ready to serve.  I had some little hands ready to eat right away…

Toddlers ready to eat the Red Velvet Cake

The inside turned out super moist!

Red Velvet Cake

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3 – Patriotic Pancake Stacks

Patriotic Pancake Stacks

You guys I love these because they are as simple as you can get, yet they still look beautiful.  My boys LOVED these and now ask for them on the regular “the pancakes with the straws.”  All ya need for these are:

  • Hungry Jack Extra Light & Fluffy Pancake Mix
  • Water
  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • Marshmallows
  • Butter
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cute Straws
  • Optional: Syrup

How do you make them?  Follow the directions on the pancake mix box…basically mix water and pancake mix -told ya again, super, super simple.  We add mini chocolate chips because …well because we are a chocolate family, but blueberries would be perfect for the these too.  The smaller you make the pancakes, the cuter these stacks are.  Stack your stacks as high as you want, we obviously went 6 high and then take your straws and push them through the center of the stack.  If you want butter or syrup on them, it would be easier to add this before you stick the straws through. I got my straws at Michaels, but if they are out, there are some similar ones here and here.  Then, slowly push your fruit and marshmallows onto the straw.  Sprinkle some powdered sugar, berries, and marshmallows on and around them and you are done!  These are almost too cute to eat :-).

4 – Miami Vice or Frozen Lemonade 

4th of July Miami Vice and Frozen Lemonade

I bring you easy again!  A Miami Vice or Frozen Lemonade is not anything new, but you can spruce these up to be festive and USA themed just by adding some blueberries and some cute napkins.  While I may be stating the obvious, you’ll need the following:

  • Daiquiri Mix
  • Pina Colada Mix
  • Rum
  • Ice
  • Blueberries
  • Cute napkins and straws (these napkins are super cute too!)

Blend your daquori/rum/ice and pina colada/rum/ice mix separately in a blender and then pour simultaneously into your glass.  I’m not stating an amount for the rum because this definitely varies by person.  Top with blueberries and enjoy!

***Now for my kiddos, I used smaller glasses and NO rum was used -I want to make that clear!  I still used the daiquiri mix and then used frozen lemonade concentrate with water/ice instead.  There’s a number of variations you can use for this, could use anything red!

5 – Frozen Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Frozen Chocolate Banana Peanutbutter Cupcakes

Here’s my healthiest recipe of them all…of course it would happen that it comes last in my list from favorite to least favorite, ha!  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t even include the recipe on this list if it didn’t taste good.  If you don’t typically enjoy healthy-ish tasting treats, then you probably won’t love this one (ex: my husband not a fan) but if you are open to the idea, these are worth a shot.  You’ll need:

  • 5 Bananas  
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Milk
  • 1 Tsp. Baking Cocoa  
  • 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla
  • Peanut Butter
  • Mini Chocolate Chips
  • Toothpicks
  • Cupcake Liners
  • Poms

How do you make them?  Mix the bananas, coconut milk, baking cocoa, and vanilla in the blender until smooth.  Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and pour the mixture into them.  If Michael’s is out of the liners, there are some similar ones here or even here if you’d rather have toppers included with your set rather than buying poms.  You can get poms at your local craft store.  Melt peanut butter in the microwave to pour over the top of your mixture.  I heat the peanut butter for 30 seconds and then stir, heat for 30 seconds and then stir until smooth.  Put your tray in the freezer.  Once frozen, the trick to getting these out of the pan is to place the bottom of the tray in some warm water…this will loosen them up to pop out of the tray.  You can then stick a toothpick in the middle and place a pom on the top.  Put back in the freezer until ready to serve.  Once ready to eat your are going to want a bowl and spoon :-).  These would be much more convenient made in popsicle form…however, I had cute cupcake liners and I needed something that I didn’t feel guilty eating at the time.  I wouldn’t make them this way on the regular but for a special occasion for sure.

*Pin it for later*

4th of July Food and Drink IdeasSo there you have my list, that wraps it up!  Comment with any questions that you may have, I went through these pretty quick rather than going into detail like I would for a single recipe post.  More importantly, no matter what you eat/drink for this 4th of July, I hope that it’s an enjoyable one for ya!

Create a similar look:

 

 

Lucky Puppy-Chow

With St. Patty’s day just around the corner, we’ve had a reservation booked since last June for a Whiskey and Brunch Experience at the Irish Whiskey Museum in Dublin, Ireland.  Right around our 5 year wedding anniversary we had started to plan a trip for just the 2 of us to Dublin, Ireland and we were pretty stoked!  Life happens and this trip has been put on the back burner among other bucket list hopes.  Last week Chase had strabismus surgery done and he is currently on the road to recovery.  His eyes look sore and likely will for awhile, but he’s been quite the trooper through it all, currently running around like nothing happened -except at eye drop time.

The first hour in the hospital after his surgery was heart wrenching, he was whimpering because no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t get his eyes to open. I immediately felt sick to my stomach, there is nothing worse than seeing your little ones hurting and feeling helpless in the moment.  Thankfully we had great care at Carle and have someone watching over us in addition to our supportive family and friends.  So, needless to say, our heads have been somewhere else rather than focusing on travel arrangements.  I need to contact the Museum this week and see if they’d be willing to let us utilize those tickets in the future.  Until then, we are settling with Lucky Puppy-Chow :-).

Lucky Puppychow

We made this together on one of the days I stayed home last week and surprisingly there is still some left but only because we made a HUGE batch.  This is one of those things that you are going to continuously nibble on every time you go into the kitchen for something…or if you are like me, you will act like you need to go to the kitchen for something else but really just want more chow.  Congrats to those of you who have willpower when it comes to these things, I do not.  We also put together a St. Patty’s Day themed learning game, if you’ve got toddlers, check that out here.

 

Lucky Puppy-Chow Ingredients:

– Chocolate Lucky Charms
– Chocolate Chex
– Devil’s Food Cake Mix
– 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
– Peanutbutter
– Butter
– Powdered Sugar

Lucky Charms, Chocolate Chex

Do you really need all the chocolate?  If you live in my house, the answer is YES!  Of course it will still be yummy if you just go with regular Lucky Charms and Chex sans the Devil’s Food Cake mix.  We wanted to mix it up though.

Directions:

  1. Dump your Lucky Charms and Chex into a large bowl and mix together.  We used about 75% of the Lucky Charms and 80% of the Chex.  This is really up to how big you want your batch to be.
  2. Pick out some of the shamrocks and place in a separate bowl.  This may seem tedious, but if you want to be able to see the green shamrocks you need to do this.  I just had my boys do this and they loved it, but I’m pretty sure Jack ate every shamrock that he picked out.
  3. Dump your chocolate chips into a microwaveable bowl and place in microwave.  Heat for 30 seconds, stir, heat for 30 seconds, stir, heat for 30 seconds.  You want your chips to start looking like a smooth mixture, but still have lumps in it.
  4. Scoop as much peanut butter as you want and add to bowl with chocolate chips….obviously don’t add like a whole jar, we did 3.5 big spoonfuls. Also add about a tablespoon of butter.  *You could skip this step if you prefer. Continue to heat for 30 seconds and stir until the mixture is completely smooth.
  5. Dump chocolate mixture over cereal and stir until cereal is coated.  We ended up using two bowls to make this easier.
  6. Pour chocolate coated cereal into a large Ziploc.  We used 3 bags so that everyone got to shake it up.
  7. Dump the Devil’s Food Cake mix into the bag (equal parts if you split it up  into multiple bags) and shake until coated.
  8. Dump desired amount of powdered sugar into the bag and shake until coated.
  9. Pour out coated cereal into your storing container.  Sprinkle the shamrocks that you picked out earlier and you’ve got your Lucky Puppy-Chow!

Cheers!

Lucky Puppy-Chow Cheers

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2018 Winter Olympics

Today is a big day.  The Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics kicks off and I hear we have an Illini alum on the USA women’s bobsled team.  I hope to root her on as I get sucked into the hours of television coverage that the games bring.  The summer Olympics have always been my favorite to watch, who else loved the Magnificent Seven?!  I used to stage gymnastics meets in my backyard, tumbling and swinging around, pretending that I was one of the Dominiques or Kerri Strug.

Today, however, I will not be pretending to compete as an elite athlete -I will be the elite athlete.  Yes -me, I will be competing in the 2018 Olympics against my colleagues at the office.  The plan is to compete in Speed Finger Skating, Mental Gymnastics, and Paper Ball Basketball over the lunch hour.  It will be very intense and we will be fueling our energy with the food of Olympians.  Please wish me luck, I’m really hoping to win a paper medal, preferably gold.  In the case that I do not bring home any hardware, at least I will get to indulge in these Olympic Oreo Parfaits.

I was at a loss trying to come up with something to bring in related to our theme, but then I was at Target (weird) and saw that Oreo currently has a limited edition of Olympic Oreos out.  Seriously, can you really go wrong with Oreo anything?  I think not.  I sprayed these babies with Wilton’s Gold Mist Gold Food Coloring Spray to make them look like medals -so I could get one regardless.

Whenever I make an Oreo Parfait….Dirt Pudding…whatever you want to call it, I never remember exactly what I did the last time so I end up just throwing things together until I think it tastes good.  I always use Oreos (sometimes I mix in the cheap brand too), chocolate pudding mix, milk, and cool whip…the amounts are always different.  This time I also used JELL-O Simply Good Vanilla Bean and some sweetened condensed milk.  I happened to have red, white, and blue sprinkles at the house already which worked out perfect.

I loved using Ball’s 4 oz. mason jars for this too because it made them super portable to bring to work.  The ones pictured up top were for home :-).

These would be great for a kid’s birthday party too!

Let the games begin!

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January Birthdays

Alright guys, this is my first blog post ever and big disclaimer – I have NO idea what I am doing!  Among about ten other things (more info to come), starting a blog was on my list of goals for 2018.  “I’d love to have my own blog,” [insert deep sigh] has been a thought I’ve had for a couple of years now.  Lack of time and knowledge has always left me wistfully thinking.  Needless to say, I’m throwing that out the window and winging it!  This is a starting point and I can stop staying “I wish.”   I have quickly found out that I could spend hours alone just reading about what to do and what not to do…much like parenting.  So, much like parenting, I am just gonna go with the flow and try to laugh at my mistakes along the way (and maybe learn a bit from them too)!

What on earth am I going to write about?  I ask myself the same question?!  I anticipate food (of course that would be the first thing I list), faking craftiness, health and fitness adventures, shopping finds, my family (that probably should have come first, huh?  -love you guys!), and anything else that brings me joy.

We celebrated some special birthdays this past weekend with family.  We had people over for Our Little LumberJack’s birthday on Saturday…I’m slightly obsessed with buffalo plaid and I probably can only get away with forcing it upon my children for so long -I’ll take advantage of it while I can.  Note: Ben refused to wear matching buffalo plaid…one day.  I saw this print in a Google search and traced it back to CollideMedia on Etsy, I couldn’t resist and bought the digital print which I can reuse over and over again…a revamp of Jack’s room in the future??

The cake…I hate to buy cakes.  Why?  —> $$$  Don’t get me wrong I’ve bought some lovely cakes from the highly talented vendors in our area and I will continue to do so, but I pick my battles.  If I can create something in my own kitchen (that I can live with looking at and that tastes good) for much less, I’m usually all about it.  Pinterest had me convinced that I could make something Lumberjack-ish.  Sugar Geek Show’s Lumberjack Cake caught my eye first with the checkered inside, ummm perfect!  But really Ashley…the cake has an edible ax = way too complex for me!  I settled on the fact that I could buy a Wilton Checkerboard Cake Set to try and create the buffalo plaid look inside and even better I got it on sale at Joann.  I saw some tutorials where people made checkered cakes without this pan, lord knows my brain didn’t want to try to do the calculations to try and make that happen!  For the actual cake, I just bought boxed mixes, chocolate and red velvet.  I substituted the oil with butter and the water with milk to make it taste more “homemade.”  I promise I read the directions for the Cake Set…but you guys…that burning smell creeped up on me not even 5-10 minutes after I put the cakes in there.  If I hadn’t been so frantic, I would have snapped pictures of the volcano that oozed down our new oven.  Saves me some embarrassment I suppose.  Anyhow, I was able to somehow salvage the cakes for stacking.  I used Baking a Moment’s Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream in between the layers and on the outside of the cake -OMG, so good, I will definitely make again!  Since I’ve only used fondant once, I knew I needed to find an easier fix to make the sides look somewhat like a tree.  SugarHero!’s Where the Wild Things Are Birthday Cake tutorial was my saving grace.  I didn’t complete all of the steps, but I was satisfied enough with my result just using melted chocolate rolled up in parchment paper after being cooled in the fridge.  There is an extra roll of it currently sitting in my fridge…dangerous.  Drag a fork on top, throw some toppers on, and stick it on a slab of wood = waaalaaaahhh and Jack loved it!

Now, I had one other issue.  A 20-something year old sister coming to my house… on HER birthday …to celebrate her little nephew’s birthday …in Lumberjack style.  Probably not her ideal way to party, but she is a trooper, loves her nephews to pieces, and still had the whole night ahead of her.  Needless to say, I felt the urge to make her a cake too.  Browsing for ideas I stumbled across Liv For Cake’s S’mores Cake …silence, this cake is beautiful – seriously, take a look for yourself!  I was sold on making an attempt and found myself wandering Walmart after midnight to try and find a torch to create the same affect.  I left unsuccessful and settled for using our candle lighter instead.  A lover of chocolate, I felt the need to add a layer of chocolate cake between the graham cracker cake.  Had I tasted the milk chocolate ganache beforehand, I would’ve known this was not needed! I think Live For Cake’s Homemade Marshmallow Fluff is the spotlight here though, oh my goodness it is so good!  I get nervous anytime I’m whipping egg whites and adding boiling sugar.  Okay, I’ve gotten nervous twice doing this.  The first time I tried I can’t even remember what I was trying to make, but it was a miserable fail.  The second time was this past weekend -it was a success!  Strictly followed the directions and added a little extra vanilla, we are still licking the spoon 2 days later.  She does not look as heavenly as I had imagined, but I will take this one as a win for now!  Did I mention I didn’t go to bed Friday night???  About the time I finished up on the cakes, it was time to start making the actual food for the party -which we had WAY too much of.  I tend to over plan and Ben loves to tell me that he told me so when this happens.  Needless to say, it was a successful weekend.  I cannot believe how quickly a year comes and goes!

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