Category: Kitchen

Happy 4th!

July 4
No comments yet
*

Happy 4th of July

 

Happy Independence Day friends. I may be home alone sick, but I wanted to take a second and share a few favorite recipes just in case you are still looking for something to bring to a gathering.

Love cookies and sprinkles? These festive red white and blue cookies are perfect and so easy to make. (Actually, I may go make some right now….)

Check your fridge, you may have everything you need for this simple, healthy, fruit salad. 

Thirsty? Check out this 10 minute sangria recipe that looks like something from Martha Stewart.

Still looking for more ideas? See this cute pool party I hosted a little bit ago, complete with a DIY mimosa bar.

RELATED POSTS

Hosting an outdoor summer party

June 12
No comments yet
*

Last month I hosted a simple little party with my friends to celebrate the beginning of summer. Generally, my entertaining is pretty simple with bags of chips and beer in a cooler, but for this girls only event I wanted to step it up a notch.

One of the ways I like to make a party or event feel a little classier is by the serving items I use. For this party I purchased galvanized steel trays to match the beverage tub I already owned. Although I saw tons of cute summer themed and printed serving items I stuck to plain ones because I wanted items that could be used for multiple parties throughout the year. I mean I love pineapples, but they would just look strange for Thanksgiving.  I also purchased a large mason jar styled water dispenser to keep my guests hydrated.

For the paper goods I just purchased the slightly nicer versions of things. I bought the clear cups instead of the red solo cups and the matching plates, silverware, and napkins from a line at target. I spent maybe a few dollars more on these, but it is worth it for the overall look and feel of the party.

img_0253

I live in Florida, here summer starts in the middle of March so I wasn’t sure how I was going to tackle the sandwich station. I wanted to have the supplies out, but I did not want to worry about anything going bad. I stressed about this for a little while until I realized I could create a system where the food would rest on a bed of ice. To make this, I purchased two of the same steel trays but filled one with water and froze it. When it came time for the party I placed the tray with the food on top of the frozen tray and the sandwich supplies stayed nice and cool. BONUS: Now I have two steel trays for a future party.

img_0255

My favorite part of this setup was the DIY Mimosa station. I’m sure you’ve seen these all over Pinterest, but I love the idea and wanted to try it myself.

img_0257

The sign is made from a precut piece of steel at Michaels and I made the vinyl decal with my Silhouette Cameo.  I also made a matching sign for the front door that said “Come on in” so the guests would know to come in and head to the back yard.

For the drinks I purchased orange juice (no pulp), lemonade, and raspberry lemonade. I thought I had three cute bottles to put the drinks in, but the evening before the party I realized I only had two. I was able to find some of the raspberry lemonade in a similar bottle so I used that, but ideally all three bottles would match.  For booze I bought a few bottles of prosecco and a bottle of rosé for anyone who isn’t a fan of mimosas.

In front of the bottles I placed fruit in three cups to be used as garnish. We had oranges, lemons, and strawberries cut and ready to use. For this party I keep those on ice due to the heat, but generally I’d keep them out front.

img_0254

Along with these goodies I put out a veggie tray for guests to nibble on during the party. I offered ranch dressing and hummus as dips. Although I love chip and cookies as easy party foods, I wanted to offer my guests a healthy alternative which I think was appreciated.

Overall this was a great little party for myself and my girlfriends. It was nice to do something a little fancier to kick off summer as I’m sure the rest of our summer parties will be much more casual. Hopefully this information can help you get your summer party of to a great start.

img_0258

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!

 

Hosting an outdoor summer party

RELATED POSTS

DIY Painted Kitchen Cart

March 8
No comments yet
*

img_8024-1

A few months ago my husband ran across this cute little kitchen cart at a yard sale. He knew that I was looking for something like this for a corner of our kitchen/dining room area and so he grabbed it for me. I loved the little cart, but I felt that it was a little lackluster and didn’t go with the room so I decided to fix it up a bit.  I recently got a new teal rug for the dining room so I decided to paint the base teal and use an antiquing wax to give it an interesting look. Our kitchen cabinets are a red oak so I purchased a stain for the top of the cart that matched this color.

Materials:
Minwax stain
Chalk paint
Antiquing wax 
Paint brush (These are supposed to be great)
Polyacrylic
Painter’s tape
Fine sandpaper
Electric sander (Optional, but totally worth the $30 investment if you’re going to be doing a lot of projects)

I purchased my paint and wax from Michaels however for simplicity I have linked to products at Amazon.

img_8030-1

The top of the cart is a butcher block and was a little worn so I went ahead and sanded the top down a little bit.  I used a fine grit sand paper. After sanding I wiped down the piece thoroughly so that it was nice and clean and then followed up with a dry cloth.

I chose to start with the stain as I knew I’d be doing several layers. The stain I used stays on for 15 minutes and then is removed with a cloth. Read the instructions on your can in case it is different. Use painter’s tape (or washi tape in a pinch) to keep the stain off unwanted surfaces.

img_8028-1

After staining I started painting the body of the cart. Originally I wanted the exterior of the drawer to be stained to match, however because the wood was different from the top of the piece the stain did not sink in well so I painted over it. I did two coats of paint and then did some touch up in a few places to make sure it was good.

img_8029-1

I chose to use an antiquing wax on this piece to give it a distressed finish. It also muted the color a bit which fit my room better. I found this YouTube video on how to use the wax very helpful.  Remember to read the instructions on your wax, with mine I went back the day after and buffed the piece to finish it.

img_8025-1

The last step was to apply a clear coat of Polyacrylic to the top. This is a clear water based sealant that will protect the surface. You may want to do two or three coats of this.

Overall this was a great project and a great deal. We spent way less on this piece and the supplies as we would a nicely painted new version of this product and we got it in the color we wanted which looks great in the dining room area.

DIY Calk painted kitchen cart. This piece was stained and waxed with an antiquing wax.

RELATED POSTS

Cacao Green Smoothies

March 7
No comments yet
*

I know I am late to the party, but I have recently been introduced to cacao and I love it! I have been using it in my green smoothies to create what are basically healthy chocolate milkshakes.

img_7977

First of, for those that also live under a rock, here is a little more info on cacao and cacao powder. Basically cacao powder is from the cacao bean so it is chocolate, but not as processed as cocoa powder. Is is high in antioxidants and magnesium which makes it a great food for women to consume. The best part? It contains only 20 calories per tablespoon!

img_7979

It took me a few tries to get my smoothie recipe down, but I have been very happy with the recipe I have come up with. In fact, it is almost addicting, so much that sometimes I want one after I get home from work instead of dinner. While I don’t suggest you eat these three times a day, the recipe I am sharing is a great breakfast substitute as it contains fiber, protein, and good fats. It will keep you full until lunch and is delicious.

img_7978

Print Recipe
Cacao Green Smoothies
This is a simple recipe to make delicious healthy cacao smoothies that taste like milkshakes. Careful, they are totally addictive.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add spinach and kale to your blender. If using a personal sized smoothie cup add water to compact the greens and then add other ingredients. Add lid and blend until smooth. Add more water if the smoothie is too thick.
Share this Recipe

easy cacao green smoothie with spinach and kale. Healthy cacao smoothie.

RELATED POSTS

My experience with Blue Apron

July 25
3 Comments
*

A few weeks ago my husband and I went ahead and tried out Blue Apron meals.  We have been very busy with the buying and selling of our home and figured it would make eating somewhat healthier and homemade a little easier.  We signed up online and were given the option to pick out meals.

My Blue Apron Experience

Because it is just the two of us we went with the three meals for two people box. The meals are $9.99 each so it comes to $59.94 for the box and shipping is free.

IMG_6077

We went online and selected our meals from the six choices. The way Blue apron is set up, you get to pick your meals but not all meal combinations are available. This may be  a cost issue as not all meals cost the same and some ingredients cost more than others.  The three meals we selected were Butter Brown Gnocchi, Sweet Chili Chicken, and  Spiced Shrimp Pearl Couscous.

IMG_6046

Our box was shipped via FedEx one day from New Jersey to our home in Florida.  The box  is designed to be able to sit outdoors in the elements until the evening of the delivery day.  I was home from work that day so I was able to bring it inside and put the items away fairly quickly, but I am sure it would have been fine for  a few more hours.IMG_6054

The box was packed with a thickly insulated inner liner which acted like a cooler for the contents.  The fresh vegetables and other items were on the top of the box and perishables such as meats were on the bottom of the box under a sheet of cardboard and between two layers of ice packs.

IMG_6051

I went ahead and pulled all the items out and stored them.

IMG_6059

All three meals were able to be cooked in a half hour or less and we enjoyed all three of them.  I love that we got to try gnocchi; I had never cooked this before and I doubt I would have tried it if it were not for Blue Apron.  The recipes were all easy to follow and steps were explained.

One thing that I was a little disappointed by was the lack of full nutritional information on the meals.  When you select your meal you shown the calorie count per serving, however no other nutritional information is shared.  We were able to look at the ingredients for the meals to decide if they would fit our needs, but knowing the full nutritional information would be very useful.

Have you tried Blue Apron?  What did you think?

Note:  This is NOT a sponsored post.  I purchased the box on my own and am not being compensated for this post in any way.  All ideas and opinions are my own.

 

RELATED POSTS

Summer Dinner Ideas

June 17
No comments yet
*

delicious summer recipes to try

With summer nearing I am thinking more and more of light, airy, tropical meals. The type of meals that, even if they are warm, are refreshing on a warm summer day.  Here are a few I’ve gathered that I’d like to try this summer.

The-best-summer-grilling-recipe-Fajita-Chicken-Kebabs-600x888 (1)

Fajita Chicken Kebab– I love making Fajitas year round, but these look super simple and can be made o the grill, perfect for keeping the heat out of the house.

Springtime-Veggie-Pasta-Primavera10

Springtime Veggie Pasta Primavera– This pasta dish looks like a perfect pot luck side.  Nice and light for a warm day.

corn-avocado-black-bean-summer-salad-4

Corn, Avocado, & Black Bean Summer Salad– This is basically all of my favorite things in a salad. I am already thinking I need to make some next week.  This can be eaten alone or with chips.

Grilled-Shrimp-Tacos

Spicy Grilled Shrimp Tacos–  Fish tacos have been one of my go to restaurant dishes for a few years now.  They are something I love, but am usually too lazy to make.  I think I am going to suck it up and try these out this summer, what do I have to lose?

Strawberry-Blue-Cheese-Salad-5b

Strawberry Bacon Blue Cheese Salad– Light, healthy, and full of nutrients, this salad is the perfect fun summer salad.  It freaking has bacon!

Grilled-Coconut-Lime-Shrimp-In-Foil

Grilled Coconut Lime Shrimp in Foil– Remember hobo dinners?  These sound like a perfect summery version.  Perfect for cookouts, camping, or other outdoor events.  Make them ahead and toss them on the coals!

 

Have you tried any variations of these? What did you think?  Have a favorite summer recipe of your own? Be sure to share it with me below!

RELATED POSTS

Brunch Ideas

April 26
No comments yet
*

With Mother’s Day coming up I wanted to share with you some of my favorite and some new brunch recipes. I don’t cook brunches very often, but when I do, I stick to a few staples.

Mini-Spinach-Quiches I’ve been making these Muffin Frittatas for a few years now. I love they are crustless so they are low carb. I use Turkey Sausage and lots of veggies. The best part? You can freeze them and then pull them out one at a time for hearty on the go breakfasts.

overnight-blueberry-french-toast-3 My mother ran across this recipe for Blueberry French Toast Casserole in an issue of Taste of Home magazine back in the mid-1990s. Ever since then we’ve been making it here and there both as a breakfast and a dinner. What I love about this recipe is it is an overnight meal. You put it all together at night and then just pop it in the oven when the time comes. Perfect for entertaining and overnight guests.

sheetpan-hashbrowns-d I am a HUGE Hash Browns fan.  Whenever I am in a restaurant that serves them, I need an order.  However, I am not the best at cooking them.  Mine always come out too crispy or too soggy, its a mess.  Anyways, I really want to try this Sheet Pan Hash Browns recipe and see if it could be my hash browns savior.

Mango-Carrot-Smoothie-Culinary-Hill-3Wouldn’t this Mango Carrot Smoothie be fun to try? Perfect for a quick breakfast for overnight guests. The recipe only takes FOUR ingredients!

What are you go to brunch dishes?  Do you like heavy casseroles or lighter fruit options?  Tell me below!

RELATED POSTS

Tried and true simple weeknight meals

March 31
No comments yet
*

30 minute or less! Tried and true easy weeknight meals. I have tried and loved all of these super simple recipes. 30 minutes or less and slow cooker options. AmberDowns.net

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been going through a huge cooking slump.  I am sick of the meals we make but am not interested in learning fancy new meals.  A few months ago I had an inspired week and tried out some simple new recipes and loved them.  Have I gone back and made them again?  No, because I am not smart sometimes.  Anyways, I wanted to share them here as tested and approved simple meals and maybe remind myself about them so that I can try them again next week.  Wish me luck, won’t you?

 

Anyways, without further ado, here are 5 simple meals that are perfect for weeknights.  They do not require special ingredients and, with the exception of the crock pot meals, can be make in 30 minutes or less.  Myself (and sometimes my husband) enjoyed each of these meals and I am looking forward to making them all again.

 

Crockpot-Enchilada-Quinoa-1-5

Crockpot Enchilada Quinoa

This simple meal has become one of go to ideas for dinners and lunches.  Because this is a casserole  type dish it freezes super easy.  I grab a container of it out of the freezer, grab some sour cream, and am ready for lunch at work.  Bonus:  Check pinterest for a enchilada sauce recipe, its super easy!  Don’t have time for the crockpot? Do it in a rice cooker(this is my method) or cook the quinoa on the stove and then bake for 30 minutes in the oven.

 

 

IMG_0559edit-copy

15 Minute Lo-Mein

This is seriously the easiest, healthiest recipe ever. I grabbed whatever veggies I had in the house and threw them in.  Super fresh and you can make it a different meal every time by switching up the vegetables.

honeylemonchicken-9-650x994

Honey Lemon Chicken and Pasta

I love how impressive this meal looks.  Fresh lemon and herbs?  It looks like it took all day but really I was done in less than 30 minutes.  I enjoyed it with angel hair pasta and my husband preferred rice.  If you reheat the leftovers in the microwave at work be prepared for questions from staff who are following their nose.

 

baked-pork-chops

Four Ingredient Baked Pork Chops

I made this recipe with thin pork loin and it was delish.  I love sliced pork loin for a super quick meal, but I am always looking for a new way to prepare it.  This was moist and hearty.  Pair it with peas and applesauce for a trip down memory lane.

 

crock-pot-hawaiian-chicken

Crock Pot Hawaiian Chicken

Crock pot meal?  Count me in.  This was another simple fresh meal that I will be making again and again.  THe fruit  give it a fresh and fancy taste and the crock pot makes it a winner.

 

 

RELATED POSTS

Upright freezer organization

January 20
2 Comments
*

Organize your freezer with dollar tree baskets. DIY budget friendly deep upright freezer organization. Keep your freezer clutter free on the cheap. Perfect for couponers, buying in bulk, families, and anyone else.

I have to admit it, my upright freezer is one of my most prized possessions.  This is of the modern marvels that really makes my days easy.  I do a lot of couponing, so when I find a great deal I love to stock up.  This saves me money and time.  I love having a stockpile of items on hand to make whatever dishes I desire.  Because of my freezer, I can do this.

 

 

I keep items in my freezer organized in plastic bins from Dollar Tree.  Before you go out to buy your bins be sure to measure the size of your freezer to ensure that the bins you purchase will fit your shelves.  Also, check the width if you want two side by side.  I purchased these bins over the last year at my local Dollar Tree.  Check yours to see what they have but make sure they will fit.  Target, Walmart, and other discount stores will also have bins of varying sizes.  If you like, you can make labels for your bins.  I just keep them in the same spot so I don’t need them.

organize your freezer with dollar tree baskets (1)

 

I divide items in my freezer into five categories.

Meat
Veggies (these take up 2 bins)
Fruit and veggies for smoothies
Dairy (shredded cheese and butter freeze wonderfully)
Meals (frozen meatballs, ravioli, turkey burgers, ect.)

I keep the bottom shelf in my freezer bin free.  This is where I keep our frozen lunches.  When I cook a dish I freeze several servings in individual containers.  My husband and I then use these for lunches at work. I like to keep anywhere from 2-12 servings of meals on that shelf and on the door.  We also keep other random homemade frozen items on the shelf such as our meat and bean taco mix and our salsa. I also keep bulk meat purchases on this shelf.  As you can see, I recently ran into a sale on ground turkey.  I have rain checks to pick up more when I get more space.

I chose a chilly winter day to organize my freezer because I live in Florida and the food will start to melt any other day.  Anyways, go through your freezer and toss out anything you deep down you will never use or is just too old to be any good.  I recommend thoroughly going through your freezer every 6 months to toss anything that is too old or you no longer need. Also, this is a good time to check if it needs to be defrosted.  My freezer is a frost free model, but they all still should be unpacked and looked at.

Untitled design (1)

My last piece of advice for your freezer is to invest in a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.  I keep mine hanging right in front.  This way, you can open your freezer and feel safe knowing it is working properly.  If you ever see that mercury (or whatever they use these days) rise, then you know you might have a problem on your hands.  I keep my deep freezer at below 0 degrees fahrenheit as is recommended by the FDA.  As you can see my thermometer has a nice bold line to remind me of the temperature to keep. It really helps!

 

You may also want to consider investing in a freezer alarm to alert you if the temperature drops.

RELATED POSTS

Simple Smoothies

October 20
1 Comment
*

Simple Green Smoothies

 

I get a lot of questions about the smoothies my husband and I make so I figured I’d make a post about our system.  Because it’s so easy we have no problem whipping them up before work in the mornings.  We blend in a Ninja blender with the personal smoothie cups.  This is mostly because someone broke the large pitcher and blade by blending a spoon while sick.  We won’t name names of course.  Anyways, we hadn’t used the personal cups much before so when we switched to them it was new.  Personally, (heh) I like them better as they seem to get a smoother blend.  Basically though, use whatever blender you have, I am not going to go tell you to spend $300 on one.

All of our smoothies are green smoothies.  This means we start with a hearty base of mixed greens.  Our favorites are spinach and kale.  We also use collard greens from time to time.  The kale is a little tart so we do a half and half ratio with spinach.  We purchase these in large bags pre washed and then stick them in the freezer.  You are also welcome to use fresh. The recipe we are going over today is for one 12 oz smoothie.  We use 1 cup of spinach and 1 cup of kale as this green base.

IMG_1306

We then add 1/2 to 1 cup water.  After adding the water you will notice that the greens kinda smoosh (yes, this is the official word) to the bottom.  This is good.  Now you have room for everything else. Make sure you put in enough water to smoosh them and almost cover the greens.  This isn’t a science to you may have to play with it.  You can always add more later.  Now this is always where I get asked about why we use water.  The simple answer is I’m lazy.  Water is free, its right next to the blender, and its 0 calories.  Why not use water?  I mean really.

IMG_1308

Next is your banana.  We use a whole banana in each smoothie.  You are welcome to use 1/2 or less, but this is what we like.  The banana gives the smoothie that good thick texture and its a great source of sweetness next to that kale.

IMG_1310

Now comes the fun part.  This is where you add your extra fruit for flavor. Today I used avocado and mango.  Strawberries, blueberries, peanut butter, and apple are other ingredients we enjoy regularly.

IMG_1316

We use chia seeds in all our smoothies as an extra umph.  Curious?  Here is a nice article explaining the benefits.  Around 1 Tablespoon is good. Whatever you do, don’t add these first if you’re using a small blender cup.  They will get stuck on the bottom and never get into the smoothie.

IMG_1325

Now we put on the lid and buzz!  Make sure you run your blender for long enough to get a nice fine blend. This is a smoothie, not a chunky.  Also, if your greens are bunching up at the top of the blender, go ahead and shake them down (with the lid on.)

 

IMG_1333

After you are done blending pour into your favorite up and enjoy!  If your smoothie is too thick add a little water and blend again and you’re good to go.

IMG_1341

So what do you think?  Do you make smoothies at home?  If so what do you do differently?  Any great ideas I need to try?

 

RELATED POSTS