Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Product Placement Wednesday - Vaseline Spray & Go Moisturizer

Today I bring back Product Placement Wednesday to share a great product that is PERFECT for summer! 

I will confess - my skin is under moisturized. I am usually in a hurry to get ready and don't have the time to wait for a heavy lotion to soak in before getting dressed. Plus in the summer who wants the weight of a thick moisturizer sitting on their skin? I live in California - it's summer here more than it isn't! Recently a friend was doing a promotion for this product and offered me a bottle as a sample. I had high expectations but this product has exceeded them. Application is simple - spray on the areas you would like to moisturize (it sprays upside down too so you can even reach your own back!) and then quickly rub the product to make sure it absorbs properly. Personally I like to apply and then brush my teeth. By the time I'm done, the Spray & Go is fully absorbed! There are three types - Total Moisture, Cocoa Radiant (with cocoa butter), and Aloe Fresh. So far I have only tried the Total Moisture but envision the Aloe Fresh to be perfect after a day in the sun - especially if you keep it in the fridge! 

This week Vaseline Spray & Go is on sale at Target! What better way to kick off summer than with freshly moisturized skin at a discount price! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Angel Food Cupcakes - 2 Ways with 1 Box of Mix!

I'm back! I have been MIA for so long due to a wrist sprain (of course when that finally healed work/life got busy!) but my wrist is more or less better and I'm so excited to share this fabulous recipe with you. It's actually a recipe x 2 and is perfect for spring and summer gatherings!

I do not profess to be a baker. Baking is science and while I dig science, I'm more of a mad scientist. This year I decided to make Champagne Cupcakes for the Oscars which was risky for sure. The recipes I found online were all 100% from scratch so I started to think how I could reconceptualize this idea. What is light like champagne? Angel Food! Do they make it in mix form? Yes! What else do you mix in? Water. Perfect! Champagne is my usual substitution for water anyway!

Instead of full sized cupcakes, I decided to make minis which had I used the entire box would have made about 70 - too many for the Oscars. Instead I made half the box and therefore used 1/2 the water/champagne. For the frosting, I found a great recipe for a Champagne Buttercream on The Curvy Carrot however I tried to make from memory (and with butter that wasn't quite room temperature) so my frosting didn't look quite right but it tasted GREAT. This is my common problem in baking - taste 10, looks 5. Plus I threw in some additional champagne so that might have also been part of the problem. Enough of the prologue, let's get to the recipe!

Champagne Cupcakes (Makes approximately 70 mini cupcakes if you use the entire box)

1 box Angel Food cake mix
1 1/4 cup champagne (or other sparkling wine)

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Line your muffin pan with liners. Angel food cake is a little sticky so I would not recommend using silicone baking cups without liners.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture for 30 seconds at a low speed to moisten and then 1 minute at medium. DO NOT OVERBEAT. This will make it too airy.

3. Add batter to liners, filling about 3/4 full. DO NOT OVERFILL. They will be misshapen and stick to the pan. Bang the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Very important or you will have giant holes in your cupcakes.

4. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Each oven is different so I suggest checking them at 10 minutes and determining how much longer by the look. When done, they will be golden brown and the cracks will be dry.

5. Cool on a wire rack.

Champagne Buttercream

3 & 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature (I used a bit more for flavor)

1. With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes.

2. Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute.

3. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes using your favorite pastry tip or just by filling a plastic bag and cutting of the corner to create your own pastry bag.

Before you look at the final product, remember that I did NOT follow these directions as I should have. Learn from my mistakes and have prettier cupcakes!

Angel Food Cupcakes with Blueberries

For the second Angel Food cupcake preparation, it is more in the presentation than changing the recipe. Angel Food and berries are a natural and classic combo however I wanted to serve them together without a frosting. Transporting frosted cupcakes is always a challenge so I came up with this simple yet attractive way as an alternative.

Angel Food mini cupcakes
Blueberries (or any other fruit you prefer)
Powdered sugar

1. Using a sifter or mesh strainer, dust the cupcakes with powdered sugar.

2. Thread three blueberries on to each toothpick and then place the free end of the toothpick into the cupcake.

I love this idea for summer as you can use whatever fruit is in season. For 4th of July you can alternate blueberries and strawberries or raspberries. It is perfect for picnics as you can assemble on site and they are temperature stable. Plus they are actually a pretty healthy dessert - Angel Food cake is fat free!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rice Krispie Treat Pops

My birthday was last month and I decided I wanted to make somesort of treat to share with my friends. Since we were going to be at a bar, I wanted something that would be easy to eat - something on a stick. I am not much of a baker and did not want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I recalled seeing some photos on Pinterest of Rice Krispie Treat Pops - bingo!

After looking at several recipes, I really did not find what I was looking for in any one single recipe. So of course I put together the best parts along with some advice from Lisa at The Little Red Apron and my own ideas! My pops turned out great so hopefully this will help you in the creation of your own pops! I wanted to make sure to share these before Valentine's Day for all of you parents that are looking for a fun treat for a classroom party. What I love about this recipe is that it is completely adaptable for any holiday or occasion just by do any of the following:

  • Using different colors of chocolate
  • Adding or subtracting sprinkles
  • Changing the color and/or shape of sprinkles
  • Adding a few drops of food coloring
  • Using different sticks
  • Mixing in other cereals
  • Cutting shapes out of the treats
It's like the Choose Your Own Adventure of desserts!

Rice Krispie Treat Pops

4 tablespoons butter or margarine (Note: This is one tablespoon more than Kellogg's recommends.)
1 10 oz package of fresh marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispie cereal (Note: There is now a gluten free version and I have been told it tastes the same.)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, optional
sprinkles, optional
Melting chocolate

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Add optional extract for a flavor boost (I used vanilla). This is also when optional food coloring should be added. Remove from heat.

2. Slowly add cereal to marshmallow mixture. Sprinkles should be added with cereal - I like a lot of sprinkles so add to your liking. Do not add sprinkles to measured cereal as they will sift to the bottom and will be a challenge to mix evenly. I recommend adding half the cereal and some sprinkles to start. Then keep adding both until all of the cereal is used and you have achieved your preferred level of sprinkle. I probably used just shy of a 1/4 of a cup of sprinkles.

3. Once thoroughly mixed, use a buttered spatula or wax paper to press into a 13 x 9 inch (or similar sized) pan that has been greased with cooking spray or butter.Traditionally you wouldn't want to push the mixture down too much as it can make for a dense treat. You want a dense treat for the pops. Make sure to build them up so that they are square enough to be a pop. You will likely not fill the pan.


4. Cool on the counter or pop into the fridge of freezer to speed the process along.

5. Cut into even squares no smaller than 2 x 2 inches. I did not measure exactly so mine are different sizes. If you want them to be uniform you will need to measure your pan and do some math. You will likely have some scraps on one end where it wasn't exactly the same height as the rest. This is the cook's treat. Enjoy while you finish the pops!

6. Melt the chocolate (I got mine at Michaels) in the microwave or a double boiler. I recommend the microwave as it makes clean up that much easier. However make sure you are using the type of chocolate that can be used in the microwave. If you use regular chocolate chips you run the risk of scorching the chocolate.

7. Dip a treat stick into the melted chocolate and then push through the shorter end of the treat until it is about halfway through. As the chocolate hardens it will help anchor the treat to the stick. I also recommend you wear an apron. As you can see by the photo below I did not.

8. Stick your pop in the melted chocolate. I find that the microwave chocolate is very thick so I used a mini spatula to help brush it up on the sides and also to make sure each pop wasn't TOO chocolaty. Place pop on a piece of wax paper to allow the chocolate to harden. If you want to add MORE sprinkles, this would be the time to do so before the chocolate cools.

9. Repeat for remaining pops and once they are cool place them in an air tight container. As with traditional treats, these are best the day they are made and should be consumed within two days.

I promise these treats will be a hit. One girl at my party ate four of them. Yes, four of them. Is it wrong that I want to make another batch of these right now? Have fun and be sure to let me know about any interesting combinations you create!!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday!!!!

Growing up I was not a fan of the Super Bowl. Despite being a cheerleader for a few years, I just could never get into the game. Then in college (and for some years after) the Super Bowl conflicted with my birthday - some years being the same day. That is not the best way to turn me into a fan! Finally the NFL wised up and pushed it back a week. Now I can enjoy my birthday weekend AND top off two months of gluttony with a big greasy finish.

Of course you don't have to go crazy on the calories for the Super Bowl. My contribution to the festivities in 2012 was a wonderful Jalapeno Popper Dip. I found the recipe on Pinterest and then changed a few ingredients to lighten it up. It was delicious!

Last year's dish was a take on the classic sliders and the calorie content was not as closely monitored. If you are hosting a large party, this particular dish is great because it stays warm in the slow cooker so people can help themselves!

Cheeseburger Bites
From Pillsbury Fast Slow Cooker Cookbook

This recipe includes my changes. One the major changes was that I doubled the recipe. The existing recipe only called for 1 lb of meat for 24 burger bites. This was just over a tablespoon per bite. I couldn't imagine anyone (especially guys) that would use so little! I also changed the cooking time thanks to the reviews on the website. 3 to 4 hours sounded crazy!

2 lb lean (at least 80% - I used 90 or 95% lean) ground beef
4 tablespoons ketchup
4 teaspoons instant minced onion (I didn't have minced onion so I finely chopped some onion and sauteed it before adding the meat.)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
16 oz (2 blocks) cheddar cheese, or whatever cheese you like (the recipe called for American and I used 1 block of cheddar and 1 Monterey Jack), cut into 2 inch cubes
24 miniature burger buns

Dill pickle chips
Sliced plum (Roma) tomatoes
Shredded lettuce (I used butter lettuce from a bag of salad.)
Additional ketchup and mustard
Other toppings you enjoy - I also provided relish, sauteed onions, and mayo.

1. In 10 inch skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in ketchup, onion (unless you cooked fresh onion with the meat), and mustard.

2. Spray 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Spoon beef mixture into slow cooker. Top with cheese.

3. Cover; cook on Low heat setting for 1 - 2 hours. Check at one hour to see if the cheese is melted. It may still look "cubed" but if you start to stir it the cubes fall away. I found that mine was ready in a little over an hour. With occasional stirring, this dish will hold on Low heat for several hours. Eventually I did turn off the slow cooker and with the lid on it stayed warm. It can burn if left on for too long.

4. Serve with the buns and toppings. Either assemble yourself or create a buffet for guests to top as they desire.

Photo courtesy of Pillsbury as I forgot to take one.

Looking for some more great recipes for the big game? Thrillist posted some great recipes earlier today. You can find them here.

So now that you have your food squared away, you need to think decor. Here are a few easy ways to dress up your Super Bowl party.

Free Signage
There are a number of free Super Bowl printables available online. You can do a simple search via search engine or Pinterest. This set from A to Zebra Celebrations is both simple and cute. Here is a sample of what you will find.

Make Easy Signage
I made this little sign to fit the Tolsby frame from IKEA. A simple font was used so that anyone attending the party could make one for their dish. Just pulled the Super Bowl logo online and added a border and a text box in Word. Super simple!

Double Duty Decor
Get this great cylinder set from IKEA and fill with a variety of items including football shaped chocolates and plastic football or helmet rings. Guests can snack on the chocolate and wear the rings!

Hope you have a great Super Bowl Sunday and that you win your score square! If you have some favorite dishes for the Super Bowl, be sure to share them below!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simple (and Relatively Healthy) Recipes for the Holidays

With only a couple weeks until Christmas, I am looking at recipes and trying to figure out what delicious contributions I can make to my family's holiday meals. In the process I realized that I have a few recipes I could share with you might make your search a little easier!


Holiday Floats

Last month I shared a couple signature drinks I have made for previous Thanksgivings. This year I created "Thanksgiving Floats" which are easily rebranded "Holiday Floats". I used Martha Stewart's Everyday Food recipe for Cranberry & Apple Cider Sorbet for these floats. I followed the recipe as it was written with the exception of doubling the recipe. This meant it froze on a different timeline and even though I forgot about it in the freezer and mashed it late, it turned out wonderfully once I put it in the food processor. The flavor is quite strong but really mellows out once made into a float.

The assembly is quite simple. In addition to the sorbet you will need sparkling wine - I personally like Prosecco as it's not too dry or too sweet. Despite what my directions say in the photos below, I think the best way to assemble the floats is as follows:

1. Pour a small amount of sparkling wine in each glass. Allow the foam to subside.

2. Put 1 or 2 (depending on taste) small scoops of sorbet in the glass. I used a melon baller to get the right sized scoop for a champagne flute.

3. Slowly and carefully top with sparkling wine. The combination of the bubbly drink and the cold sorbet really causes it to foam up!

In order to keep the sorbet frozen, I took an ice bucket, filled it with ice, and then placed the bowl of sorbet on top. If you are hosting a party and want this drink to be self-serve, I would recommend doing something similar.


Tortellini Caprese Skewers

1 package whole wheat cheese tortellini
cherry tomatoes (I used Sweet 100s from my garden)
basil, cut or torn into skewer size pieces
Trader Joe's Balsamic Glaze
olive oil
coarse sea salt

1. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Cool. If you don't have time to allow the tortellini to cool on their own, you can prepare an ice bath (ice & water) and plunge them for a quick cool down.

2. Assemble skewers using toothpicks sandwiching the basil between the tortellini and tomato. Be sure to skewer through the "meatiest" part of the tortellini and tomato for a sturdy appetizer.

3. Arrange dipping "sauces". Balsamic Glaze (can be substituted for a balsamic reduction) in one bowl, good quality olive oil in another, and coarse sea salt in another (or via a salt grinder) with small serving spoons. While I prefer to offer the selection of classic toppings, you could also just drizzle one or the other over a platter of skewers.

Note - I actually originally made these for a picnic at the end of summer but the colors and simplicity make them a perfect appetizer for the holidays!

Caramelized Onion, Gruyere and Bacon Spread
I made this delicious spread last year for Christmas and it was a huge hit! I found the recipe on the Cooking Light website. At only 100 calories for 3 tablespoons, you can feel free to indulge! The creamy cheese, caramelization of the onions and subtle saltiness of the bacon makes this dip seem much more decadent than it actually is.
Something to note - you have to cut up A LOT of onions for this recipe (this is what makes it so low cal despite all of the other delicious ingredients). If you are sensitive to the aroma, you may want to wear eye covering. I had to keep stopping because I couldn't stop crying! Also, I prepped the entire spread the day before with the exception of adding the final layer of cheese. If you are trying to get a number of items ready, just having to pop this in the oven is a big time saver. I served this spread with Trader Joe's Rye Crisps and crostinis.

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light
Side Dish/Salad
Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Shallots
This was another great find from Cooking Light! Our main dish last Christmas was a pork roast and these potatoes went wonderfully. I think this dish would go equally well with any number of proteins as the shallots and rosemary really help tame the sweetness of the potatoes.

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light
Christmas Spinach Salad
This is a salad that was inspired by one my friend brought to an event several years ago. I just love the contrast of the pomegranate seeds against the spinach leaves. Unfortunately no photos of this one but I promise it is very simple.
1 bag of pre-washed spinach leaves
feta cheese, crumbled (I like the fat free or reduced fat.)
fresh pomegranate seeds (dried can be substituted but it isn't as good)
walnuts, chopped & lightly toasted
balsamic salad dressing
1. Fill a large bowl with spinach leaves and top with the feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts - use your best judgement as to proportions. You want to garnish the salad - not have the toppings in equal proportion to the spinach.
2. Just before serving, toss with dressing or allow everyone to dress their own salads.
I hope these recipes have given you a place to start when planning your holiday meals and gatherings. The options really are endless! I am a crazy Pin-aholic so please check out my Pinterest page for lots more recipe ideas!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On the Tart Side's Holiday Gift Guide

Everyone and their brother is doing a holiday gift guide this time of year so I figured I would throw one more in the mix! While I still stand by the advice from my previous gift giving entry - You Shouldn't Have! - A Guide to Gifting - here are some creative items for everyone on your list!

Ladies first....

Gentle Reminders Pencils - Even though we ladies strive to embody all of these attributes, it never hurts to have a little reminder at our fingertips! These cute pencils come in a variety of colors (though I think the gold on white is very chic) and at just $12 a set are perfect for small gifts for co-workers or stocking stuffers. In addition Amanda Catherine Designs, the Etsy shop that sells the pencils, donates a portion of their proceeds to end child sex slavery & exploitation. These pencils are not quite the "write" sentiment? There are several other fabulous designs as well as a number of cute prints for your walls.

Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler Gold Chevron Picture Frame - As a huge Jonathan Adler fan, I was thrilled when he started designing a line for JCPenney! While MY wish list has a number of items from his regular store, you can't go wrong with this adorable $15 frame. The neutral tones of gold & white give it flexibility to work with a variety of different decors. Other stylish frames are priced similarly so you can bring that Jonathan Adler look to your home for a fraction of the cost! Also, right now all of the holiday themed items are on sale! Very cute stockings to dress up your mantel!

Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It - Nothing says friendship more than crazy Patsy & Edina from Absolutely Fabulous! This just released DVD box set includes every episode, every special and lots of extras. While at the higher end (currently approximately $143 on Amazon) it would make a very memorable gift. Don't forget a bottle of Stoli and some champagne sweetie darling!

And now for the Gentlemen....
Antonio Glasses Holder - I am a big fan of anything that makes boring more fun. Lose your shades frequently? Not anymore! What guy wouldn't want to see his glasses perched on top of a moustache? At only $6.99, it also can double as a conversation piece on your entry table. Is it practical? Is it art? It's both! Available at The Container Store.

Recycled Vinyl Record Bookends - Regardless if he uses these bookends to hold up his own vinyl collection or a bunch of encyclopedias, give his bookshelf a facelift! IKC Designs confirms that no viable records are harmed in the creation of these bookends so for $24 a set he can cozy his books up next to some vintage vinyl. One can only hope that such classics as Air Supply and Milli Vanilli end up in your order. These records are coming from my home state of Ohio so you never know what you might get!
Craft Beer Connect - Shopping for a craft beer lover? Give them the gift that keeps on giving with a membership to Craft Beer Connect! Memberships start at just $30 per shipment and you have several options depending on the types of beer you would like to gift/receive. Prefer to do a one time shipment? That is an option too - same options and prices but as single transaction. You can even select your beers if you want! Please read any shipment restrictions carefully as not all states allow the shipment of alcohol.

Don't forget the kiddos!
Fingernail Friends - I remember the year that Santa brought me my first nail polish. It was supposed to be kid friendly however I recall sitting in my parents' bathroom waiting FOREVER for it dry. Kids are not known for being great at the waiting game which is where this product comes in. Choose either Butterflies or Zoo Animals and have fabulous nails in seconds with these great stickers from The Container Store. At just $4.99 they make a great stocking stuffer!

Incog-Neato Moustaches - Movember might be over but kids will love playing with this fun selection of moustaches from The Land of Nod. Hours of make believe await for just $7.95!

What about a gift for the ENTIRE FAMILY?
Zoku Quick Pop Maker - Kids want popsicles, parents want to provide a healthy snack with minimal time and effort - enter the Zoku Quick Pop Maker. You simply store your pop maker (makes either one, two, or three pops simultaneously depending on model) in the freezer and when the popsicle mood strikes, simply fill with your favorite juice, chocolate almond milk, etc. In just seven minutes you will have fully formed popsicles! Each slot can make up to three pops before needing to be fully refrozen. The maker comes with instructions on how to make fancy layered pops if you want to get creative. The single pop maker starts at just $24.95 and is available directly through Zoku as well as Williams Sonoma; Amazon; Bed, Bath & Beyond among others.

Show your favorite Host or Hostess that they truly are the Mostest!
Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato - Last year I traveled to Australia and while there discovered this wonderful, light, sweet sparkling wine - Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato. While a traditional champagne is a safe choice, I think this particular wine is a very fun and festive option for a hostess gift. Rather than a champagne cork, the bottle is topped with a bottle cap which is very unique. In Australia they also serve this wine on draft at bars in fabulous beakers. K&L is selling this wine for just $10.99 a bottle so at this price you can pick up a case!
Journals from Kikki K - Kikki K is another discovery from my time down under - a Swedish themed stationary company based in Australia. Kikki K has the most amazing journals - not just a book with blank pages but one that helps take you on a journey. The two examples I included below are two of my personal favorites. The "A Sentence a Day Journal: Celebrate Today" is a three year journal where you write one sentence about your day each day. It is a wonderful way to reflect on the little things that make up the days of our life. Another favorite is the "Happiness Journal" which provides activities and places to write you monthly objectives to exploring your own happiness. I could go on and on so it is better to just take a moment and see for yourself (I bought my guestbook from this store - it is similar to this book). Prices vary and international shipping is free with orders of $150 or more.


Last but not least a fun item for your office gift exchange!
Misheard Lyrics Coaster Set - I just saw these coasters this week and thought they were just too fun! Coasters with commonly misheard lyrics are an automatic conversation starter - Did you ever think they were singing that? What lyrics did you realize you sang wrong for years? With a price of $20 they are the perfect price point for your gift exchange!

What is the best gift you've ever received? Any favorites for this year you are hoping to find under the tree? Happy Gifting!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Product Placement Wednesday - Trader Joe's Pita Crisps with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds

Yes, I know that it isn't Wednesday but I couldn't wait until Wednesday to share this product with you! Earlier this season our friends at Trader Joe's teased us with a great product called Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps. They were very similar to the Raisin Rosemary Crisps but in far less supply. As with so many of their seasonal products, these guys flew off the shelves. Don't miss out next year! In the meantime, I have a slightly different product that you will love equally as much!

Trader Joe's Pita Crisps with Cranberries and Pumpkin Seeds

In case you are wondering how good these pita crisps are I will tell you I wish I never opened the bag - they are that addicting! Of course addicting in the best possible way! They are the perfect combo if you don't know if you want something sweet or savory. They lean towards the sweet side as they have a sugar coating though have that crunchiness of savory snacks. I have been enjoying mine with the Mini Brie Bites (for portion control) but I think they would be equally good with other soft cheeses like goat cheese. They are also delicious on their own! Trader Joe's recommends enjoying then with egg salad but I really think the cracker is too sweet for that flavor profile. I would stick with plain hummus, cheese (be careful if the flavor is too bold), and sliced turkey. Also, they are whole wheat so they are TOTALLY good for you! No matter how you serve them, they are the perfect addition to your holiday spread. Don't miss out!

Still looking for a cocktail to serve on Thanksgiving? Be sure to check out my last post here!