Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Thinking back on my childhood Christmases, there are lots of great memories but a few memories stick out more than the others. I remember how much I loved our house at Christmas time. My mom decorated our home, changing out practically every decoration she could to replace it with something festive. It was so fun seeing our home transform into a Christmas wonderland. Besides the home, my mom's Christmas cookies are another thing I remember so vividly. I can't recall how long my mom would bake for or even exactly what kind of cookies she was making but I do remember our entire dining room table being stacked with bins and bins of cookies. My mom would give some away as gifts and keep the rest for our family. I still have my favorites and request them still to this day. 

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Making a Gingerbread House

Making a Gingerbread House

Every year I attempt a gingerbread house. I buy the $10 kit and excitedly open it with the girls. We breeze past the instructions, tossing them aside as we open all of the cookies pieces and candy, ready to dive into this yummy adventure. We start throwing pieces together only to realize each piece needs time to set. This is not acceptable to young children. There is no patience to let icing dry, especially with stacks of sweet, delicious candy sprawled out in front of them. After multiple attempts to hold them off to allow for the house to dry, I give up and let them dive in.

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Friendsgiving 2017

Friendsgiving 2017

Another successful Friendsgiving is in the books and the day did not disappoint. I feel a little dramatic when I say that Friendsgiving is one of my favorite nights of the year but I'm being totally honest. I love hosting parties at my house, I love Thanksgiving, and I love seeing all of my friends eating, drinking, and enjoying each other's company.

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Christmas Eve Menu

Christmas Eve was always a bigger day for celebrating with my family as a kid. We used to go to my grandparents house with my dad’s family & all of our cousins, it really was a great time. Once that tradition ended due to life circumstances, my parents kept it going at our house with my siblings and Christmas Eve really became such an amazing day for us all.

As an adult, I’ve hosted my mom and siblings for Christmas Eve for about four years now. Picking the menu is always fun because we aren’t committed to a set menu like we are for Thanksgiving, seriously my siblings would cut me if I altered our traditional Thanksgiving lunch -- ever.

Last year I did a fun Grinch theme complete with “roast beast” and “who hash”. This year I wanted to do something a little different so we are planning to get a ham.

This is our menu so far, complete with appetizers and desserts.

My mom makes a sausage bread every year and has been making this for as long as I can remember. Of course, as is the case for most moms, she has no recipe but I asked her for a high-level summary:

Take two loaves of frozen bread, let thaw and rise.
Take two "tubes" of breakfast sausage, diced onions, and diced green peppers and brown all together. Take it off of the heat and let cool. Once cool add in shredded mozzerella cheese and two beaten eggs. Roll out the thawed dough and put the mixture on the dough. Roll up and brush with egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees until brown and the bread is cooked through. Let rest and then dig in!

It’s really tasty and the whole family devours it within minutes. This recipe would also be great for a breakfast bread for Christmas morning.

I love making brie topped with cranberries, brown sugar and pecans. This recipe with puff pastry is great but brie is also good with a topping of cranberries and brown sugar alone. We usually eat this with crackers or little toasts.

My most favorite appetizer of all time are these stuffed mushrooms from Ina Garten. They have sausage and mascarpone cheese and are a hit everytime I serve them. These can be made a few hours in advance and then just popped in the oven an hour before serving. They do taste the best served hot but I have reheated them for leftovers and they are still pretty good.

For our ham we are cheating a bit and ordering it from Honey Baked Ham. They are just so amazing and with one less thing to make, my husband is as happy as a clam. Everytime I think about getting a ham from there I think of that scene in ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ where Nora is chasing her Hickory Honey Ham into oncoming traffic, I just love that movie! (Side note if you are getting one of these hams I highly recommend reserving online picking up first thing Friday morning, they get so crazy!)

My mom is bringing green beans that are packed with flavor. They are cooked in chicken broth and have red potatoes and bacon in them----seriously, who doesn’t like bacon! The recipe is from Paula Deen so don’t be surprised by the lack of nutrients.

The next side we are making is going to be some sort of mashed potatoes. I will probably end up jazzing it up with sour cream, bacon, and chives. I love mashed potatoes with the skins on but my brother can’t stand it so peeled it will be.

We will have rolls too that I planning to buy frozen and just bake, I’m not motivated enough to make some from scratch but if you have an awesome recipe to share I’d love to see it.

I’m still undecided on dessert. I have a few options but I just can’t quite decide. I love Giada de Laurentis’ recipe for Panna Cotta with Berries, that’s usually a hit and the honey in this recipe gives it such an interesting taste. I was also considering creme brulee or a family favorite, banana pudding. My mom will also bring a dessert of some kind so I’m thinking something opposite of hers.

With dessert the options are endless really, and with that they are also overwhelming. I’m also planning to make something the kids will enjoy as well such as cake pops or rice krispie treats.

Last but not least are the drinks. I am planning to try this recipe for Santa Claus-mopolitans (love that name!) and we will have both red and white wine on hand.

I am looking forward to Christmas Eve so much, from the dinner with family and friends and the kids opening presents, it’s such a fun time. And let’s not forget the guaranteed easy bedtime---”if you don’t go to bed, Santa won’t come!” Ha the perks this time of year.

What does your family plan to do on Christmas Eve? Any fun traditions to share?

::Foodie:: Hello Fresh!

Let's talk food! Have any of you tried these companies that have fresh groceries and meal plans delivered right to your door, ready to be made? Well we have and I have to say we love it!!!

It all started with a Christmas gift from my Dad and Toni, a gift card for Blue Apron. We thought it sounded cool and eventually signed up for a week to be delivered in February.

Our first order was Chicken Schnitzel, Cod with Udon noodles, and a Pork dish. Everything was great.

Since Google is creepy and knows my every move, I then saw advertising for Hello Fresh, same concept. One shipment of three meals is $69.99 and the Google deal was $35 off. I signed up and picked my meals and they were delivered Monday evening, ready to be made.

These meals were amazing and we are official hooked, we just made our last meal of our fourth Hello Fresh shipment tonight. Every single meal has been so good. The flavors are unique and not combinations we would typically put together.

When you get the box it is packaged with ice and everything you would need except oil, butter, salt and pepper.

The packaging is seriously the cutest thing, like look at this ketchup and mayo they sent for burgers tonight!!

You get the recipe and all measurements for both a 2 serving and a 4 serving meal. (excuse the quality, these are pictures I took and texted to my best friend)

I like too that I am able to recreate any meals that I really love. The meals have a difficulty level and a time to cook listed on each one. I've only had 1 or 2 meals that were more difficult than the "easy" level. Overall, this is so fun to do and so easy. It's awesome as working parents to come home and have everything not only planned but also portioned and measured, there is very little thinking that actually goes into this----exactly what I need.

Here are some of the meals we've made.

Mahi Mahi Piccata over Cous Cous

Panko Parmesan Chicken Salad (this has been my fave!!)

Shrimp with Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Fiesty Fish Tacos with Cabbage and Grapefuit Slaw

Steak with Chimmicurri over Cous Cous

Everything has a different twist and honestly a few times I've been skeptical that the flavors wouldn't work but they always do!!! 

I highly recommend this, if you are interested my referral code is: 3SRJLL. You get $40 of of your first box if you use this code.

1Go to
2Choose your box
3Enter your personal code at checkout

Let me know if you try it! I'm curious to hear what you think!!

Mere :-)

::Craftie:: Fall Pinterest Party

This weekend I hosted my very first Pinterest Party. For those of you not quite sure what this is, it's a party where you and a bunch of friends get together, eat some great food from recipes found on Pinterest, and make crafts or other ideas from...yep you guess it...Pinterest!

I have been working on so many baby crafts lately that I thought a Fall themed party would be a great opportunity to branch out from my baby bubble. 

I made finger foods from recipes that I found on Pinterest (praying they didn't bomb since most were being made for the first time). I thought I would share if any of you were interested in your own Fall themed party.

I was thinking of using this pin to make mini caramel apples but then I saw this idea from this blog to make a DIY Caramel Apple Bar!
I bought bagged, pre-sliced apples for this since I knew the apples would be sitting out while everyone grazed and I didn't want them to brown. I skewered each slice and set out mini chocolate chips, coconut, mini marshmallows and candy corn for everyone to make their own caramel slices. My favorite combination was the chocolate chips with coconut. This was a really fun alternative to caramel apples and everyone was able to make their own variations and try different combinations.

Nothing exciting here, just hummus with carrots, cucumbers, and pretzels.

There have been many recipes (here, here, and here) for various fall trail mixes floating around Pinterest and I took a little something from each of these and came up with this yummy mix.
Fall trail mix: Cheezits, pretzels, Reese's Pieces, candy corn, chocolate chips, and salted peanuts

Pigs in a blanket are always a yummy, quick treat. I attempted to make them "mummy" pigs in a blanket but it wasn't working out so we just settled on the norm.
This recipe for stuffed mushrooms got tons of great reviews but didn't really seem to have much substance, various reviews altered it by adding sausage or crab. I added chicken Italian sausage to the mix and dipped the mushrooms, once stuffed, in bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese prior to baking.

This dip is delicious! It's a pumpkin dip with cool whip and was light and airy while still quite tasty. 
The creator of this used Nilla Wafers and apples as dippers, the apples were my favorite.

Decor from Jo-Ann's and everything fall was 40% off.

My father-in-law brought tables over that I put end to end on the balcony since our inside space is quite limited. Thankfully the weather wasn't too hot or humid once the sun set.
Fall table cloths also from Jo-Ann's. 

I didn't get pictures of anyone's crafts before they left but here is what I made based on this pin. I printed out the letters on legal paper and used an exacto knife to cut them out. Then I taped the outline of the letters to this foam pumpkin and traced the letters with pencil. Using acrylic paint in brown and a teeny paint brush I filled in the letters and topped it off with a brown polka dot bow. It's in our foyer as a cute way to greet guests.
It was a pretty quick and easy craft which I recommend for these kind of parties since you don't want anything too complicated.

This party was pretty fun and was one friend even suggested we make it a seasonal thing. Have any of you attended a Pinterest Party? What do you think?

Monday is over friends---one step closer to the weekend!

Mere :-)

::Foodie:: Best Pie Ever!

When I was in high school I worked at a local bar-b-que restaurant that in addition to all of the delicious bar-b-que that they served, they also served the best coconut cream pie. The restaurant closed about ten years ago and since then I haven't tasted any other pie that comes close to that one...until now!

I was browsing ideas to bake last weekend when I came across a recipe for Coconut Marshmallow Cream Pie on I decided to give it a shot and the results were phenomenal (this is the pie I mentioned in my pregnancy post this week). It's actually pretty easy, here are some pictures of the steps as I went.

First step is to bake an empty pie shell, I line mine with foil and raw beans to keep the crust from collapsing in on itself.

I actually keep these beans just for this purpuse, these have probably been cooked 10 times. 
Melt butter and bring light cream to a boil, I used half and half

Sugar mixed with eggs, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla.

This gets combined with the cream and butter and starts to thicken quickly. 

Then add marshmallows and coconut. Stir until melted.

Add to your pie crust and chill for two hours.

Take egg whites, cream of tarter, and sugar and whip until its shiny and stiff peaks form.

Add to the pie, I like to make mine spiky by patting my spatula all over the pie, sprinkle with coconut and bake for 15 minutes...and....waa-llaaa!

Delicious Coconut Cream Pie!

If any of you remotely like coconut, you have to try this! I highly recommend! Happy Saturday...enjoy your weekend!

Mere :-)

::Foodie:: Strawberry Cupcakes!

Happy Valentine's Day!

I really love baking and lately have been dreaming of owning a bakery which has really had me in the baking mood. In the spirit of all things delicious, I decided to make a couple sweet treats for my husband for this holiday including Strawberry Marshmallow Popcorn and Strawberry Cupcakes with homemade Strawberry Buttercream Frosting.

The popcorn was so easy to make ::recipe here:: and it was quite addictive! I think I ate more than half of the bowl before the end of the day yesterday.
I think this recipe will be a repeat for us and would also be fun to try with other flavors of Jello.

Strawberry Cupcakes ::recipe here:: were really good also however I think next time I am going to try and lighten them a bit. They were very dense, almost the consistency of banana bread. I may try cake flour next time or even try folding in egg whites or something similar to get them lighter. Either way they were (are) really good but I think a little lighter of a cake won't be as filling.

Strawberry mixture on the left, flour on the right

Cupcake batter all mixed up

Williams-Sonoma cupcake kit


Hope you have a great night!

:-) Mere

::Foodie:: Croque Monsieur

For those that aren't aware, I am a huge Meryl Streep fan. In 'It's Complicated', there is a scene where she is making dinner for Adam, played by Steve Martin. She makes croque monsieur. It looked pretty interesting and I made a mental note to try it sometime. A few months after watching the movie, I discovered a French bakery in town that served this and I was hooked. It's a French ham and cheese sandwich with a layer of cheese on the outside as well as inside.

I recently found a recipe for it from the Barefoot Contessa and we tried it for the second time tonight. The flavors are exactly like the ones we tried at the French place. 

Croque Monsieur

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

I hope you try this and enjoy! Let me know if you make this also.

:-) Mere