Monday, July 20, 2015

Strawberry Breakfast Bruschetta

My wonderful Mommy & Me group has a monthly ladies only brunch.  We love spending time together with our little ones, but it's also hard to hold an uninterrupted conversation with a bunch of babies and toddlers running around.  That's why once a month we leave the kids at home with our hubbies and catch up over mimosas and delicious brunch treats.  In the summer months it's nice to make something that doesn't involve heating up the house.  That's where this breakfast bruschetta comes in.
Just like it's savory cousin, you start out with some toasted bread.  I sliced up a baguette and spread each piece with a thin layer of butter or coconut oil.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on top and pop them in the toaster oven until they are as toasty as you like them.  Now you have adorable little cinnamon toasts, but we aren't finished yet.

Take your cinnamon toasts and schmear them with some ricotta.  I threw mine in my immersion blender to smooth it out a bit but you can totally skip that step.

Dice up some fresh strawberries.  I did this the night before and the natural sugars in the strawberries really came through.  If you don't plan ahead or your strawberries aren't as sweet, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar.  My original plan was to put some fresh mint in with the strawberries, but the mint at the store was pretty sad looking. It was delicious without it, but if you have a mint plant or your store has some decent looking mint, toss some in.  Spoon some of your diced strawberries onto each crostini.

Before serving, transfer your bruschetta onto your serving platter and drizzle with honey.   These Strawberry Breakfast Bruschetta were a great addition to our weekend brunch, but they are easy enough for a weekday.  The crunch of the crostini, the creamy ricotta, and the sweetness from the strawberries and honey combine to make a delicious and relatively healthy morning treat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

derma e® Skin Care - Product Review

I was provided with a complimentary product for review.  All opinions are my own.

I've always been concerned with skin care, but once I entered my thirties it became even more important to me.  One step that I've been meaning to add into my skincare routine is a serum.  They are all the rage and seem to be the key step to keeping your skin looking great.  When derma e® reached out to me about trying one of their serums I jumped at the chance.  

Family owned and operated for 30 years, derma e® is focused on developing vitamin-rich, high-performance, antioxidant skincare solutions.  The award-winning line features over 80 doctor-developed and clinically-tested products that are free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil and petrolatum.  derma e® products are cruelty-free and 100 percent vegan.  Manufacturing and operations take place in California and are backed by 100% wind energy.

derma e®  has a wide variety of products for every skin type.    I got to pick from all of these amazing sounding serums:

  • Firming DMAE Serum - This silky, firming facial serum helps support healthy texture and tone for visibly firmer skin.
  • Soothing Redness Reducing Serum - This gentle, fragrance-free moisturizing serum for sensitive skin helps reduce redness, calm irritation, diminish blotchiness and discomfort.
  • Evenly Radiant® Brightening Serum - An intensive skin-brightening treatment that targets uneven pigmentation and age damage for a visibly brighter complexion.
  • Hydrating Serum with Hyaluronic Acid - A concentrated treatment that plumps skin full of moisture and nutrients so it appears softer and smoother with fewer visible lines and wrinkles.
  • Deep Wrinkle Peptide Serum - This nourishing, double-action treatment formula addresses the look of deep lines and wrinkles to promote smoother, younger-looking skin.

I kind of wanted to try them all, but ultimately I decided on the Firming DMAE Serum.

I've only recently started using it so I can't really speak to results.  I will say that when I put it on, my skin feels tighter, in a good way, if that makes sense.  It has a light, natural fragrance that absorbs quickly and it feels light on my skin.  It has been an easy step to add into my skincare routine and it has made a derma e® fan out of me.

If you are interested in trying out the derma e® line for yourself (and I recommend that you do) they have a quick quiz on their website that gives you personalized product recommendations.  Take the quiz HERE and see what derma e®products are right for you. 

I was provided with a complimentary product for review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, June 15, 2015

DIY Glitter Cupcake Toppers

If you saw my last post on Creating Free Digital Invitations then you know that I recently threw a pink and gold "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" shower for one of my dearest friends.  To add some glitter to her shower, I decided to make these adorable gold glitter cupcake toppers.  They were super easy to make and turned out so cute.  I used my Silhouette Cameo, but if you don't have one you could use a star-shaped craft punch or even trace and cut out stars (it will just be a little more time consuming).

I went to Joann's and picked up a 12 x 24 sheet of gold glitter sticker paper.  I made a star in the Silhouette software and then replicated it to fill the page.  Then I just loaded the sticker paper in and let my Cameo get to work. 

I repeated this process with some white cardstock for the backing.  The only other thing you will need is a box of toothpicks.  Once you have your white cardstock stars cut out, one at a time peel off one of you new glitter star stickers.  Lay a toothpick on the sticker side so that it about 2/3 of it is sticking out. 

Lay a cardstock star on top and press them together. 

That's it!  Just repeat for as many cupcakes as you need.  I love the way these turned out!

They were so adorable on top of our pink frosted cupcakes!  Sorry for the photo, I forgot my regular camera.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Creating Free Digital or Printable Invitations

One of my dearest friends is pregnant with her first little one, and it's a girl!  Living in a house full of boys, I get extra excited at any opportunity to get crafty with my favorite color, PINK!  Her mother-in-law and I are throwing a fun co-ed shower for the happy couple and we decided on a pink and gold Twinkle Twinkle Little Star theme.  I immediately took to Pinterest and have been pinning like crazy.  When it came time for the invites, the parents-to-be decided they wanted an email invitation.  I went to Evite and Paperless Post and while they had some great design choices, they didn't have exactly what I was looking for.  I don't know about you, but once I get an idea in my head, I get stuck on it and nothing else will do.  So, to PicMonkey I went.  If you have never used PicMonkey, get on it.  I absolutely love this site.  It's a great tool for bloggers looking to spice up their blog pics, but it is also perfect for designing your own invitations.  Did I mention that it's FREE!  They do have a Royale membership that has a few extra features, fonts, and overlays, but I've always managed to get by with the free version.

To make this invite I went to PicMonkey and clicked on the Design option.

That will bring you to a page that looks like this:

On the left you will see the basic edits available to you.  First you want to pick the color of your card, if you are going with a white card, skip this step.  I wanted pink so under Canvas Color I played around until I got exactly the shade of pink that I wanted.  Once you are happy with the color, click apply.

Next you want to add in your decorations, I decided to keep it simple with just a few gold stars in the top right corner.  From the little menu on the left, click on the butterfly.  This will give you a bunch of little shapes you can use as decorations.

I clicked on the Stars because, um, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Stay with me people.  Of course you can use whatever you want.  Keep in mind that anything with the little crown icon is a Royale feature so you will have to pony up to use those.  I picked a nice basic star and then played around with the color until I got a shade of gold that I was happy with.  Then I copied the heart and resized it to get a few different sizes and rotated some of them to create visual interest.

Finally I clicked on the Tt from the menu on the left and inserted text boxes for all of the text I wanted to enter.  I used the same shade of gold as the stars.  One cool thing to keep in mind with text is that in addition to their fonts (non-Royale options are somewhat limited), you can use any fonts that you have on your own computer, yay!  Once you have it how you want it, click save, name it, and save it to your computer.  I was super excited with how this turned out!

In case you are thinking to yourself, "Wow Lauren, this looks great except for those random black boxes," I just added those on top for this post to protect their privacy.  Once you have the invitation saved to your computer you have a couple of options.  You can have them printed (or print them yourself if you have a good printer) and mail them out.  The parents-to-be wanted their invitations emailed out so I had to find an online invitation service that would let me upload my own design.  After a little bit of searching, I found a site called Celebrations that will allow you to upload your own design.  It's a free service, unless you want it ad free in which case you have to pay to upgrade.  This means that with a little bit of creativity and some time at your computer, you can design, send out, and manage RSVPs for your own custom invitations for FREE! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Overnight Sausage & Vegetable Strata

I know it's been quite a while since I last posted, but I'm back!  Things have been crazy busy around here and something had to give.  Hopefully you haven't forgotten about me in the meantime.  I recently hosted a potluck brunch for a bunch of my girlfriends and made this delicious Overnight Sausage & Vegetable Strata.  It was such a hit, that I had to share it with you all.

I love entertaining, but it can be hard to cook when my boys are awake.  That's why I love recipes that can be made, or at least prepped, in advance.  This strata is perfect for brunch for a crowd, but it would also make a delicious Mother's Day breakfast.  You completely assemble the strata the night before and then in the morning, just pop it in the oven.

My favorite omelette is one with cheddar, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes with some sausage on the side.  I had planned to incorporate all of those flavors into this strata, but then I realized that I had forgotten to get the spinach at the store so I just used the others.  Evidently I was super distracted while I was at the store because I also bought the wrong sausage.  I wanted to get mild Italian sausage and I did, but I accidentally bought chicken Italian sausage.  This worked out perfectly so take my happy accident as an example and get whatever kind of sausage you like, spicy, mild, pork, chicken, as long as it's sausage it will be delicious!

Start out by browning your sausage.  Once it is browned, drain it if necessary and then set it aside.  Then cut up a loaf of bread into cubes, you can rip it too if you want it to be more rustic.  You want about seven or eight cups of cubed bread.  I used a french loaf this time but I've also made it with sourdough, both turned out beautifully.  It's better if your bread is a little bit stale, but if you forget to buy the bread a day or two in advance, don't worry about it.  Put half of the bread cubes into a 9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Next you are going to layer on half of your toppings.  For me that was shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, and chopped cremini mushrooms.  As I said, I had planned on adding some fresh spinach so feel free to add some of that too, or whatever veggies you like with your eggs.  Then repeat your layers.

In a bowl crack a bunch of eggs.  I happened to have extra-large eggs so I used 9, but if you have large eggs, use 10.  Pour in 3 cups of milk, I used skim, just use whatever you have.  Add in some dry mustard, salt, and pepper, and then whisk it all together.  Pour the egg mixture all over the bread.  If any cubes of bread are sticking up and dry, push them down a little so that they soak up some of the liquid.

Then cover it all and stick it in the fridge.  The next morning, take your strata out of the fridge while your oven is preheating.  Bake your strata at 325 for about an hour.  I'm sorry to say that my guests arrived and I forgot to take a picture of the strata when it came out of the oven, perfectly golden and smelling divine.  Luckily, this piece was leftover so I was able to snap a couple of pictures for you all.

Overnight Sausage & Vegetable Strata
  • 1 lb. mild chicken Italian sausage
  • 7-8 cups cubed bread
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped and deseeded
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 9 extra-large or 10 large eggs
  • 3 cups skim or low-fat milk
  • 2 tsp. dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  1. Brown the sausage in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.  Drain any fat and set aside.
  2. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Put half of the bread in the baking dish and sprinkle with half of the cheese, sausage, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  Repeat the layers with the remaining bread, cheese, sausage, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk, dried mustard, salt, and pepper.  Pour evenly over the ingredients in the baking dish.  Press down any bread that is sticking up and dry.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next morning, bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes or until golden brown.

I'm linking up with Cook It Craft It Share It, Crafty & Delicious, and Showcase Your Talent Thursday.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring Chick Cupcakes

Jake's class is having a spring picnic today and his teacher asked if I would be able to make cupcakes for them.  When you are feeding a class full of five and six year old kids I've always found it to be a good idea to give them all the same thing.  That way no one can complain that they didn't get the one they wanted.  Since I would be making only one flavor of cupcake I decided to stick to vanilla because pretty much everyone at least likes vanilla, even if it isn't their favorite.  Vanilla cupcakes also make my life easy because I always make them from a box mix.  Trader Joe's vanilla cake mix is richly vanilla flavored, unbelievably moist, and just plain delicious.

With the easy part of the cupcake decided I had to figure out how to decorate them.  Since it is a spring picnic I knew I wanted something springy.  Then I was at Target and they had the 15 packs of Peep's chicks on sale.  As soon as I saw those cute little marshmallows I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Chicks sitting on the grass.  Very springy!  On top of that, it was a technique I've used before on this amazing (if I do say so myself) Cars cake I made for Jake's 3rd birthday. 

I don't know about you, but sometimes I volunteer to do something, and then I decide to try something fancy and new, and end up getting myself super stressed out.  Josh may have pointed this out to me a time or two.  These cupcakes are not like that.  The grass frosting looks impressive but it is actually super easy.  All you need is the right frosting tip, one with a bunch of little holes.  Mine is by Wilton and is number 233, but I'm sure other brands make them too.  Wilton even has a little video tutorial on how to use it to make grass. 

No. 233 Multi-Opening Decorating Tip

I started out by baking up two boxes of vanilla cupcakes (I needed 32).  Once they were cooled I made a batch of vanilla buttercream and then used Wilton's gel color Leaf Green to make it a soft green, I was going for a springlike color.  Before I got out my grass tip, I just used a frosting spreader to spread a thin layer of green frosting over the base to give the Peeps something to stick to.

Next I used my grass tip to pipe little blobs of grass around the edge of the cupcake.  Then pipe another layer of grass inside of that edge until you are left with an oval in the middle with no grass. 

Plop a Peep chick down in the center of your cupcake and you have an adorable springtime treat.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Crockpot Hoisin Chicken

I love my crockpot, but I have to be honest, I have a hard time finding good chicken recipes for it.  So often the chicken ends up really dry.  Whenever that happens I am so disappointed, but I'm not willing to give up on chicken in the crockpot.  When I saw Cookin Canuck's recipe for Hoisin Chicken in the crockpot I immediately gave it a try.  It was super juicy and the flavor was good, but I made a few tweaks to suit my family's tastes and to minimize dishes (my favorite thing).

For those of you who aren't familiar with Hoisin sauce, it is a thick, dark, sweet sauce used in Chinese cooking.  My first introduction to Hoisin sauce was as a little girl with the minced chicken lettuce wraps at Panda Inn, yum yum!  It is the star of this Crockpot Hoisin Chicken, but the soy sauce, ginger, and chili garlic sauce keep it from being too sweet.

It has been super hot here so the crockpot allows us to have a delicious homemade dinner without me standing over a hot stove or heating up our house with the oven.  This Crockpot Hoisin Chicken is also incredibly easy to make.  

Start out by spraying your crockpot with cooking spray and then putting some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the bottom.  To be honest, I'm not sure if you need the cooking spray, but I always use it when I'm cooking with my crockpot to make for an easy clean up. 

In a large liquid measuring cup combine your sauce ingredients.  You will need soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chicken stock, a little bit of honey, some minced ginger (I used a frozen cube from Trader Joe's), and some chili garlic sauce.  We don't like things very salty so I used low-sodium soy sauce and chicken stock.  Mix all of your sauce ingredients together and then pour it over the chicken.

Put the lid on and cook on low until the chicken is cooked through.  The amount of time will depend on your crockpot and how big your chicken breasts are.  It took mine about 2 1/2 hours.  Once the chicken is cooked through, take it out of the crockpot to shred it. 

Combine some corn starch and water and then stir it into the sauce in your crockpot.  Add the shredded chicken back in, give it a good stir, and continue to cook for about 30 more minutes so that the chicken can absorb some more of that delicious flavor.  If you are nervous about dry chicken because your crockpot has let you down in the past, do not worry.  Look how juicy that chicken is!

I served mine with our favorite brown rice and quinoa blend and some steamed broccoli.  This chicken is so flavorful and delicious.  The next day I made a little salad with the leftovers, some lettuce, a little rice vinegar, some extra Hoisin, and a few peanuts.  No matter what you pair with this Hoisin chicken, it is absolutely delicious!

Crockpot Hoisin Chicken
Adapted From Cookin Canuck 
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbls. honey
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. chili garlic sauce
  • 2 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbls. cornstarch
  • 2 tbls. water
  1. Spray your crock pot with cooking spray and place chicken in the bottom.
  2. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup combine soy sauce, hoisin, sauce, chicken broth, honey, ginger, and chili garlic sauce.  Pour over the chicken.
  3. Cook on low 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until cooked through.
  4. Remove the chicken and shred it.
  5. Combine the cornstarch and water and stir it into the sauce.  Put the chicken back in the crockpot and continue to cook about 30 more minutes so it has a chance to absorb the sauce.