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Friday, September 19, 2014

Skinny Mini Popcorn Bites with Better Ingredients

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #SkinnyGirlSnacks #CollectiveBias

Skinny Mini Popcorn Bites really hits the "sweet" spot after a long, busy day bustling to and fro.  But snacking on a mini cup or two for dessert this time allows us to leave the guilt behind! Say what?!  

It's true! How great is that?
I'm one of those weird people who actually love to work out.  I've mentioned before that my passion is running.  There's just something about the feeling I get when my feet are pounding the pavement with heart wildly thumping and breathing accelerated.  

Here I am in the middle surrounded by my favorite running buddies (i.e. my sisters) after our 5k Freedom Run back in July when I visited "home".  Our girl time during my week-long stay consisted of lots of training for the event, yummy food-making, and shopping...only our favorite things ever!  

My sisters and I have many things in common, our looks being one, but another biggie is our sweet tooth.  We love and live for desserts!  

However, after a good, hard run, I cringe at the thought of backtracking through careless, mindless eating.  But my philosophy is that you can "have your cake and eat it too", so to speak.  It's fun to enjoy a sweet treat every now and then, and there's nothing wrong with that, especially when it's these lower-guilt, Skinny Mini Popcorn Bites!
Oh. My. Word.  Can I just tell you how excited I was to discover a popcorn snack that wouldn't kill my good eating intentions?  Yes, such a thing exists.  
Behold, the amazing and almost-too-good-to-be-true Skinnygirl Popcorn! But it's real, and the photo above is proof.

Being the popcorn lover that I am, I was skeptical that anything could even come close to my butter-heavy, calorie-laden movie night indulgence.  But Skinnygirl gives me the same satisfaction and a very similar flavor sensation of eating full-calorie butter popcorn, but without the residual shame over what I just consumed.  I'm pretty sure my nose won't lengthen two feet for saying so, either.  :)  It's honestly a fantastic substitute/replacement for the other stuff!

Sure, it's not quite as buttery as the comparison, but I'm saving 20% on calories to its competitors eating something with better ingredients that still tastes pretty darn yummy, so I don't care! PLUS it doesn't contain artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, so I'm giving it two thumbs way up and leaping onto the Skinnygirl bandwagon!  Wait for me!
On my last trip to Walmart, I grabbed a box of Skinnygirl in "Butter & Sea Salt" that I used in today's recipe and another in "Lime & Salt" for a movie night later.
To make these cute and tasty popcorn cups, I sweetened the popcorn just a titch with some honey and then added an extra flavor boost with a touch of peanut butter, an eensy weensy measure of coconut oil, a teeny weeny bit of mini chocolate chips, and a few colored sprinkles.

Added up, it equals pure goodness that allows me to still enjoy dessert, in controlled portions, minus the overwhelming pit of "why did I eat that?" afterwards.

{SKINNY MINI POPCORN BITES}
Recipe adapted heavily from Inside BruCrew Life

6 c. (about 1 1/2 bags) popped Skinnygirl Butter & Sea Salt Popcorn
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
2-3 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips
1-2 Tbsp. colored sprinkles

Pop popcorn, put in a large bowl, and set aside.  In a small saucepan, stir coconut oil, honey, and peanut butter over medium-low heat until smooth and melted.  Pour over popcorn and toss to coat well.  Let cool for a few minutes, then serve in mini cupcake papers for convenient portion control! Top each with a few mini chocolate chips and a pinch of colored sprinkles.

How's that for easy peasy, not to mention delicious?!
Count me in for dessert tonight!  And tomorrow I don't have to run nearly as hard, right?  Even better!
I'm wishing I could send some through the computer screen to my sisters (i.e. far-away running partners) right now because a girl's got to enjoy dessert sometimes, and it doesn't have to destroy all the good that happened during that workout.

I'd gladly share with you, too, if I could!  But for now you'll have to take my word on its utter deliciousness until you can make some for yourself.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cake

If there ever was a dessert that brought back the warm fuzzies of my childhood, it's this Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cake.  Take a peek and try not to drool.
My mom used to let us choose which kind of cake we wanted for our birthdays growing up, and without fail, this is the one that many of us requested.  

Even for a coconut hater like me (I'm weird, I know), I can't resist this moist, dense, sweet-with-a-crunchy-topping cake.  I think it's because the coconut adds a fantastic texture, but isn't an overwhelming flavor, which is just the way I like it.

The oatmeal is softened in boiling water, which provides a perfect moistness for the cake base.  Mmmmmm!!!

{OLD-FASHIONED OATMEAL CAKE}
I just did a little research and found a form of this recipe on Pillsbury, but we ate it through our growing up days, thinking it was our own. :)

1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. oatmeal
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Topping: (I usually 1 1/2 times this part)
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. cream or evaporated milk
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. coconut
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together sugars, shortening and eggs.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Pour boiling water over oatmeal in a separate bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix until combined.  Add oatmeal and mix until combined.  Pour into a greased 13" x 9" cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool, and then prepare the topping: Stir all ingredients together in a sauce pan over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is well-combined.  Pour over cake and spread evenly.  Put cake under a broiler and broil until coconut is brown, but not burned.  I set the timer for one minute and keep checking it so it doesn't burn.  The broiling is crucial and lends a wonderful flavor.
We had a few dinner guests the other night and even after eating way too much of the main course, there was still more than enough room for a giant slice of Oatmeal Cake.  I had to send the rest home with them so I didn't finish off the entire pan that night by myself.  Because I probably could have. 
I'd forgotten just how amazing this cake was until my sister texted me the other day and said she was enjoying a piece.  We do that to each other often...send messages about what we're eating and make the other person jealous.  It's fun.   I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I made some the next day, and it was absolute heaven.

I hope you love it too!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Perfect Tailgating Food

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® Tyson and Wet-Nap®, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia  #wingsandwipes http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Football season is upon us, which means lots of gatherings, tailgating, and parties! So I've put together the perfect, tasty spread of food...wings with Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, chocolate caramel brownie bites, and a veggie tray for just those occasions!
I'm drooling just looking at it again! A party table filled with messy foods like this (especially when kids are among the partakers) needs one more addition...the Wet-Nap wipes! They definitely saved our day.

Buffalo wing hot sauce hands, caramel chocolate faces, and drippy dip fingers...that's what our meal looked like.  It was nothing some Wet-Nap hand wipes couldn't fix though!
Grab your coupon HERE for $.55 off any Wet-Nap product at Walmart, while supplies last.
I prepared for our little gathering by hitting up Walmart to stock up on the wipes and Tyson Any-Tizers chicken wings.  We love spice, so I had to get Buffalo Style Hot Wings and Honey BBQ Seasoned for a well-rounded variety.  I love that I can just pop them in the oven for a quick spell while I'm focusing on other party preparations. 

Are you big on watching football whether on a high school, college or national level?  Do you have a certain team that you cheer for?  

We enjoy playing football in our back yard more than watching it, but that's not to say that we don't jump behind our favorite team if they make the playoffs. And you know I always love a good excuse to get together with friends to eat yummy food, so we still usually end up tuning in for a few games here and there.

I remember my days in high school heading to the football games with friends, clad in our team spirit wear.  We'd hit the bleachers and shout until our throats were sore and our voices were shot.  Ahhhh...good times.  But I never did attend a tailgating party.  Weird, I know.  So in commemoration of lost opportunities, I put together my own mock tailgating table, equipped with all the game day food essentials.

I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't start with dessert, so let's do that.  These hand-held Chocolate Caramel Brownie Bites are phenomenal and so easy to make! Just beware...they are addicting!
Simply whip up a batch of boxed brownies, except use a mini muffin pan instead of the traditional cake pan.  You'll want to fill each cup about 2/3 full.  I baked mine for about 10 minutes on 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Right after pulling them out of the oven, take a spoon and press it into the top of each brownie to create an indentation for the chocolate frosting. Let cool slightly, then remove from the pan to a rack.

Then, make a bowl of awesome Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and pipe into each brownie using a re-sealable plastic bag with a snipped corner.  Lastly, just drizzle melted caramel candies and melted chocolate chips on top with some sprinkles to finish them off!
Because wings just have to be accompanied by dip, at least in my book, I made some Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce for the Honey BBQ Seasoned Tyson Any'Tizers wings.   Mmmmm...mmmm good!  I served it up in some double-lined mini cupcake papers. 

{HONEY CHIPOTLE BBQ SAUCE}

2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/2 c. ketchup
2 Tbsp. water
1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 to 1 tsp. Adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles (depending on how much heat you like)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and saute until garlic releases a nice aroma, about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in ketchup, water, honey, cider vinegar, dry mustard, Adobo sauce, salt, cumin, and black pepper.  Allow to come to a gentle boil while stirring constantly.  Immediately turn heat down and allow to simmer on low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

I made sure to keep the Wet-Nap wipes handy, because this boy got himself into a very sticky situation with the goodies!  But can you blame him?  I mean look at those brownie bites...talk about irresistible!!
Such a perfect array of foods for our family football party!  It doesn't get much tastier than this!

Keep up with the latest by following:

Wet-Nap on Facebook and Pinterest
Tyson Any'Tizers on Facebook and Twitter

Happy tailgating and football partying!

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Caramel Apple Poke Cake: Let the Fall Recipes Begin!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FlavorofFall #CollectiveBias

I'm so excited to usher in the cooler autumn season with delicious fall recipes like this Caramel Apple Poke Cake made with apple sauce, apple juice, and M&M's candies for a pretty decoration on top!  
Not only is this cake pretty darn cute, but it includes the terrific, refreshing flavors of fall!  This is by far my favorite time of year.  I just can't get enough of the cooler temps, the sweaters and boots, the gorgeous-colored leaves and maybe most of all the fresh-off-the-tree apples!
As a teenager I worked at a country store that was located on a huge orchard owned by a local family in our town.  We sold lots of yummy hand-made confections, but the thing I most looked forward to about the autumn months were the crisp apples in a myriad of colors and flavors that started coming in by the bushels!  They were picked and boxed right next door to the store.  The customers flocked for them.

I started to get pretty adept at knowing what kind of apple it was just by looking at the skin, even though there were so many different kinds throughout the season.  It was my job to know, because the prices were all different, depending on the variety of apple.

My favorite type definitely is the Honey Crisp.  It tastes like candy, that could be why.  :) 
 I really miss those days, now that I live out of state.  Now I associate fall and all the wonderful events that accompany it with apples and, by default, luscious apple desserts!  I decided to put together a sweet treat that embodied all those memories of working at The Big Red Barn and in honor of apple season!
Meet the Caramel Apple Poke Cake.  Doesn't that just look mouthwatering?  The cake base is nice and moist with flavor infused through the pokes by a caramel ice cream topping and apple sauce combination.  Um...yum!

I just used a yellow cake mix from the box, but then dressed it up with applesauce and apple juice to tailor it to the season.
It's a super easy dessert to put together and is sure to impress!

Here's a few of the necessities:

I grabbed all the ingredients during my weekly grocery run to Walmart.  If you're lucky enough, you'll find Candy Apple M&M's now at your local Walmart!  Wouldn't those be fun to use for this?
Catch a coupon for $1 off any two Mott's sauce or Mott's juice drink HERE.  And go HERE to save $1.50 on any two M&M's brand chocolate candies (coupon quantities are limited). Don't you just love saving money on baking?



{CARAMEL APPLE POKE CAKE}

1 box yellow cake mix (the kind that calls for eggs, oil, and water)
Mott's Apple Juice to sub in for the water called for on the box
Mott's Applesauce (sub in for half of the oil called for on the box and use oil for the other half)
1 apple, peeled and very finely diced; optional (fold into cake batter after mixed)

Poke Mixture:
1/2 c. caramel ice cream topping
1/4 c. Mott's Applesauce

Topping:
1 container whipped topping, thawed
2 Tbsp. instant vanilla pudding mix (just the powder)
1 Tbsp. Mott's Applesauce
1/8 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Prepare and bake cake according to package directions, except make the changes/substitutions described above.  Let cake cool completely.  Poke the top of the cake with the tip of a wooden spoon about 25-30 times.  Prepare poke mixture by stirring together caramel topping and applesauce. Pour mixture over the cake, ensuring it goes into the holes.  Make the topping by stirring together whipped topping, pudding mix, applesauce, and cinnamon (if desired).  Spread over the cake and refrigerate until ready to eat.  Best if eaten within a few hours after making so the cake doesn't get soggy.
Now slice the cake and use red and green M&M's to make a cute apple design on the top of each piece.  Then dig in and enjoy!

What's your favorite part about fall as it relates to food or activities?  I'd love to hear in the comments section below!

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Host a Captain America Superheroes Party!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #HeroesEatMMs #CollectiveBias

My four-year-old son loves Captain America, so to gear up for the release of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, I hosted a Marvel Superheroes Party equipped with loads of fun and oodles of sweets that were infused with one of our favorite candies...M&M'S®!  Come see!
As I've mentioned before, my son is a little superhero obsessed, but I don't mind catering to his craze in the least.  After all, I like to think of myself as a hero of the domestic realm. I save children from falling down stairs and bumping their heads on a daily basis.  I keep my mini superhero's suits nice and clean so they can look their best out there.  And I supply/create the fuel that keeps them running and jumping, climbing and swinging. It's no easy task. :)

This party catered to mine and my kids' love of sweet things.  Because superheroes enjoy sugar. too, and it gives them the extra boost of energy that keeps them going all day!  A party of this caliber calls for lots of color and even more chocolate, so I incorporated handfuls of M&M'S® into each of the desserts.  Catch a great coupon for M&M's HERE.
I was temped to grab one of every M&M'S® variety on the candy aisle at Walmart, but I ended up selecting the ones above, along with some Pretzel M&M'S®, not shown.
The kids (I mean little superheroes) went wild for the carefully-crafted, tasty confections.  Let's talk about them now, because I can't wait a moment longer.
Let's start with the Hero's Pops.  I hand-dipped some crispy rice squares on long sucker sticks in blue candy melts, then sprinkled them with mini M&M'S®.  Aren't they fun?  These were definitely the party favorite.

I served up blue punch (shown in the very top photo) for drinks.  
The gathering just wouldn't have been complete without the red, white and blue Popcorn Cake, dotted with Peanut M&M'S® and crunchy pretzels.  Find the recipe that I recently posted HERE.
Next up were The Captain's Dumbbells.  The incredibly strong superheroes partook of jumbo white marshmallows on striped straws that I cut in half. 
Don't forget the Stars and Stripes Cookies!  For these, I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough (recipe HERE), added in M&M'S®, pressed it in a greased cookie sheet, and then cut out star shapes with cookie cutters after baking.  I then drizzled them with red, white and blue candy melts.  Yum!
And last but certainly not least on the dessert menu was this Giant Double Chocolate M&M'S® Cookie.  Find the recipe HERE.  It resembled a rich, soft brownie...definitely not for the faint of heart.
I always challenge myself to be frugal with party decor, so I typically do most of that myself.  I used some superhero call-out printables (free printables found HERE and HERE).  The kids had fun with the gumball-turned-M&M'S® machine.
I cut out white stars on Cardstock and then my son and I had fun coloring some printed Captain America pages that I later displayed on clipboards.  
I interspersed jars filled with M&M'S® for the kids to munch on.  I wrote "Superhero Sweets" on a cute easel chalkboard.

I made favor bags with white paper bags.  I glued red and white striped paper and a white star in the middle to resemble Captain America's shield.  Easy peasy!  I didn't pre-fill the bags because I figured there would be plenty of leftover sweets to take home in them, and there were.  :)
I lined the table with a blue plastic liner with a Marvel wrapping paper runner.  I used that same wrapping paper to make the banner on the backdrop.  I ended up purchasing the Captain America metal sign, but I figured it will hang in my son's room from here on out, so it was worth the small cost.  I made vintage-looking painted burlap Captain America shields to further carry out the theme.  I taped up white and red wrapping paper, in layers, for the backdrop.

The entertainment was simple, yet undeniably a blast.  The first task began in our back yard.
 The superheros tested their agility and fitness on a timed obstacle course.  They cautiously tread over narrow, rickety bridges,  practiced their flight skills, slid down skinny chutes, and effortlessly scaled buildings (aka the jungle gym).  All in a day's work. :)  The Hulk even joined in on the drill.
Then we played some Superhero Bingo and snacked on the M&M'S® markers while doing so.  I purchased the bingo cards inexpensively at this Etsy shop.

I have an awesome bit of news...Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier recently released!  We're all pretty excited around here. And speaking of exciting, you can pop over and take a quiz to find out which Marvel superhero you are and enter to win a $100 Walmart gift card too!  According to the quiz, I am Iron Man! Yeah!!

If you'd like, let me know the results of your quiz in the comments section below.  I'd love to hear!

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Friday, September 12, 2014

The Best Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

I love baking breads in the fall...especially those that qualify as a dessert, like this Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread!  I'd venture to say it's the best I've had of its kind, and I've taste tested more than my fair share. :)
I can't get enough of the aroma that fills the house when fresh bread is in the oven.  Are you the same way?

No need to light a candle when the natural scent of baking can permeate the air with goodness. 

I enjoy making homemade bread in any form, but especially those that are sweet! Surprise, surprise. :)  Dessert breads are just so yummy!  Add in chocolate, and I'm sold every time!
The zucchini lends a perfect moistness to the bread without being overwhelming in the least.  In fact, I took two platefuls of it to a church meeting and no one could believe it was zucchini bread, simply because the zucchini was so well hidden (i.e. finely shredded).  There were lots of "ooohs" and "aaaahhhhs", and the goods disappeared without a trace or crumb within minutes.

Another key to its moistness is storing it in an airtight, resealable bag after it has cooled. 

{THE BEST ZUCCHINI BREAD}
Yield: 2 loaves

1 c. granulated white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. zucchini, finely grated
3 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. nuts, chopped (I use walnuts or pecans)
Chocolate chips

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together sugars, beaten eggs and oil.  Add in grated zucchini and vanilla.  Mix just until blended.  In a separate bowl stir together flour, salt, soda, cinnamon and baking powder.  Add to wet mixture and mix just until blended.  Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.

Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 45 minutes to one hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If the top starts to brown too much, place tin foil over the loaf pans and continue baking until done.

This recipe is a hand-me-down from my aunt, and a definite family favorite for years and years.  My mom prefers it without chocolate chips, but I say bring them on!  Either way, this bread is a keeper!

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