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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Skittles Patriotic Poke Cake

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

This yummy cake, made with a doctored-up mix, infused with vibrant stripes of red and blue Skittles syrup, then decorated with fluffy white frosting and Skittles is begging to be served at your summer gatherings!  It's sure to impress!
I look forward to summertime for so many reasons, but one being the patriotic holidays that we get to share with family and friends celebrating our wonderful country.  We typically host a big BBQ to commemorate Memorial Day.  For July 4th, I have a special tradition of participating in a Freedom Run (5k) with my sisters early in the morning, grilling up some delicious food later on and then finishing off by watching a spectacular fireworks show.

If there's one way I like to show some serious American pride, it's in the festive desserts that I make, whether it be for a cookout with buddies or just a refreshment to enjoy on a late summer evening while sitting on the cool grass, watching the kiddos play.

This cake requires no special occasion, folks!  It's THE perfect delightful confection no matter the day or temperature outside.
It boasts beautiful, vibrant colors and the wonderful flavors found in the Skittles America Mix

Have you heard about it? 
I've always loved Skittles, especially the red and blue ones (which are your favorite?), so when I heard about the Skittles America Mix, my heart about skipped a beat!  I'm convinced it was made just for me.  :)

And it sure saved me lots of sifting and sorting through colors while making today's gorgeous poke cake!  
Look at those billowy white clouds of cream cheese and whipped topping icing! Not to mention the red and blue stripes that provide an explosion of Skittles flavor with every bite! 

Desserts just don't get any more heavenly than this!  

If it seems there's no excuse to invite the masses over and share a meal, let serving this cake be reason enough!  Your guests just might bow down and kiss the ground where you walk, don't be surprised.  :)
Have I expressed my deep love and devotion to Amazon Prime yet?  If not, I've been seriously remiss.  My husband jokes that it might be a little too convenient with the number of brown smiley packages arriving at our door each week.  :)  

But when I decide I need something, like this limited edition Skittles America Mix, I don't want to wait ages to receive it and get my delicious project underway (love the super quick Prime shipping, don't you?!).


With just a few clicks of the mouse on Amazon, I can get ready to bake up the most scrumptious, mouth-dropping cake I've had in a very long time, and that's just what I did.
You'll be the talk of the town when you serve this delectable creation!

{SKITTLE PATRIOTIC POKE CAKE}
Inspired by this video

For the cake:
1 box (approximately 15.25 oz.) white cake mix
4 egg whites (from large eggs)
1/3 c. canola oil
3/4 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. sour cream (full fat)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Skittles Syrup:
1/3 c. each of red and blue Skittles, sorted (I saved the white ones for decorating)
1/4 c. water

For the frosting:
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
2 containers (8 oz. each) whipped topping, thawed
To make the cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, gently whisk together egg whites, canola oil, buttermilk, sour cream, and vanilla.  Add cake mix and stir until well combined, whisking, if necessary, to work out all lumps.

 Divide and pour mixture evenly between two 8" round cake pans that have been prepared with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake for approximately 22-25 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the Skittles syrup by adding 1/3 c. blue Skittles and 1/4 c. water to a small pot.  Stir vigorously over medium heat and allow it to come to a low boil while the Skittles dissolve completely.   Remove from heat. You can remove the little white wax pieces with a fork if you'd like.  Repeat the process in a separate pot for the red Skittles.  Allow mixtures to cool.
Carefully remove your cakes from the pan, allow to cool completely, then poke holes with the flat end of a wooden skewer, leaving about 1" between holes. Repeat for both cakes.  Using a spoon, pour the red mixture into the holes of one cake (you may not need to use all of it).  Do the same with the blue mixture for the other cake.  

Prepare the frosting by first whipping cream cheese and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth.  Remove bowl from mixer and fold in whipped topping with a spatula.  Frost cakes by putting a big dollop (don't be shy about it) of frosting on the blue cake and spreading it evenly around, then placing the red cake on top. 
Now, I'm no professional cake decorator, but this one's easy to make look good with minimal novice (speaking of myself, of course) effort!

Frost the top and around the sides, leaving a little frosting for the decorations on top.  You can be all fancy shmancy and use a decorator's bag and tip or be like me and just pipe the frosting decorations on top with a resealable bag from which you've snipped the corner.  Place Skittles on each frosting puff top in a red, white and blue pattern.  
Now slice and serve!  

I can't get over how fun those red and blue stripes are with the contrast of the white cake and bright white icing!  It's almost too pretty to eat...almost.  :)

Be sure to stock up on Skittles America Mix at Amazon!  Where will you bring this cake this summer?

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

No-Bake Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

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

This dreamy frozen Strawberry Cheesecake dessert with a cookie and pecan crust will become a summertime favorite!  It's so refreshing and bursting with strawberry flavor from an infusion of Outshine® Bars!

I'm so happy to announce that it's finally feeling like summer here!  It was warm enough this past weekend that I could go out and get some yard work done.  I can't tell you what a welcome feeling that warm mountain air is after a very long, cold winter!  I'm sure that I'll be eating these words before the summer's over, but I was actually so excited to go fertilize my lawn and pull weeds.  Cabin fever will do that to you.  :)

We purchased an adorable unfinished wood mini picnic table for the kids, so they spent Saturday morning painting it together.  I have to admit that I cringed a few times watching the drips and globs, but they were having a great time, so I was too.  :)

Their last day of school is this Wednesday and they are chomping at the bit!   There's just a happy feeling that seems to accompany the prospects of lazy days at the pool, visits to far-away family and friends, and of course lots of cool treats like today's yummy concoction!
We keep the freezer stocked with refreshments during the hot months.  We love spending time outdoors, but that means that we get parched quickly!  So we take lots of breaks between activities and lounging around under the shade of our huge pine trees to come inside for Outshine® Bars.

I love that they're made with real fruit, are fat-free, and don't include artificial colors or flavors. They totally hit the spot when the sun is shining in full force outside!
As if these delicious bars aren't good enough...guess what?! It gets even better!

You can instantly win a $5,000 backyard refresh from Outshine® plus hundreds of daily summertime prizes! Text “Snack Brighter” to 30364, or enter HERE.
Outshine® Bars are easy to find on the frozen treats aisle at Walmart.  Be on the lookout for Outshine® Bars product demos at your local Walmart the weekends of 5/21 and 7/14!
You know how I love incorporating the delectable flavors of summer into my recipes, and I'm sure you're aware of my cheesecake obsession, so I put together the dessert of all desserts with some Outshine® Strawberry Fruit Bars, a pecan and crushed vanilla cookie crust, and a smooth and sweet cream cheese layer.  

Oh man, words cannot describe the sensation your taste buds will get from this one!  It's phenomenal!  It's the kind of thing that you need to make a point of having company over when you make it, because something this good just has to be shared!

I'm thinking BBQ's and potlucks are the perfect occasions for these delights to make a star appearance!

{STRAWBERRY SWIRL CHEESECAKE BARS}

Crust:
2 c. crushed vanilla wafer cookies
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 c. finely chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Layer:
2 pkgs (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Outshine® Strawberry Fruit Bars
1 container (8 oz.) whipped topping, thawed


1/2 c. strawberry jam for swirling on top


Here's how to make them: 
Set out 3 Outshine® Strawberry Fruit Bars on the counter while you begin preparing the dessert.  They need to soften to a slushy stage, but you don't want them to be too runny.  Crush vanilla wafers finely in a resealable bag.  Pour them into a bowl and add sugar, chopped pecans and melted butter.  Stir until crumbs are all moist and coated.  Press mixture into a 9"x"13 cake pan.  Place in the freezer while you prepare the next layer.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon juice until mixture is completely smooth.  
Press slushy Outshine® Strawberry Fruit Bars with your hands to break them up, remove the popsicle stick, then empty each package into the bowl of the electric mixer.  Cream together.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spread mixture over the partially-frozen crust.  Swirl strawberry jam into the top with a butter knife.  Cover it with foil and place it in the freezer until firm, at least 3 hours.

Summer time just wouldn't be the same without a plate of this frozen, creamy strawberry goodness!  Dig in!

What are your summer plans? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below!
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Monday, May 23, 2016

"We Struck Gold" Father's Day Gift Idea with Free Printable Tags

Let Dad or Grandpa know how lucky you are to have him in your life with this gold foil-wrapped chocolates gift!
With Mother's Day behind us, my thoughts immediately turned to things I could do to recognize and express appreciation and love to the amazing Fathers in my life (whether it be my own dad or the father of my children or my Father-in-Law, all of whom are very deserving of celebration).    

When holidays roll around and I'm looking for gift ideas, I like to take a stroll down the candy aisle at the grocery store (even though I don't need an excuse as good as this to do so).  It's pretty much my favorite location in the place.  :)

When I saw these chocolate candies with gold wrappers, I had a light bulb moment and knew I needed to incorporate them into a delicious and heartfelt gift just in time for Father's Day.  I filled my jar with Hershey's Nuggets (because who needs real gold when you've got chocolate? Ha!), but you could use any candy with gold wrappers such as Rolo's, Ferrero Rocher, chocolate gold coins, or Werther's Original to name a few.

I filled a glass jar from the Target Dollar Spot (a Mason jar works too) with the goodies and then attached the tag with gold ribbon tied in a bow. 
I think my kids are pretty lucky to have such an amazing Daddy, and I know they feel the same.  He's such a hard worker, yet no matter how tired he is, he always makes time to play with them, help them with projects or homework, listen to them, and make them feel loved and adored.

Download and Print Your "Struck Gold" Tags Here


Print on white cardstock for best results.  *Printables are for personal use only, please.  I worded the tags in both singular and plural pronouns and for Dad and Grandpa for your convenience.


I've always wondered how it would feel to strike it rich finding "gold in them thar hills".  The excitement at the first sight of that shiny nugget gleaming through the dirt and grime while sifting must be unmatched. I only wish I could experience this for myself.  :)

But I'm pretty sure my kids feel that same sheer joy when their dad walks through the door every evening.  It's the sweetest thing watching their faces light up as they run towards him and embrace after a long day apart.

So my kiddos will be presenting this jar to their dad on his special day, and I know it will be well received.  I've also heard them making plans together for his breakfast in bed and handmade cards with poems and drawings. :)

I'm banking on a hope that he won't read this post so we can surprise him.  Fingers crossed!

Is there a wonderful Dad or Grandpa in your life who would love to receive this gift?

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Friday, May 20, 2016

White and Walnut Kitchen Reveal! A Remodel that will Rock Your World!

This classy dual-tone kitchen with a subway tile backsplash and white-washed wood paneled island is the perfect blend of farmhouse, traditional and industrial styles! A HUGE thank you to D. Lawless Hardware for providing the gorgeous cabinet knobs and drawer pulls!  You can find out more about them below.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase from my links, I'll receive a small percentage to help me keep providing you with inspiring content.
I've been SO excited to show you our new kitchen!  I'm probably way more excited to have a useable sink, dishwasher, counter space and oven, though!  I'll never take those things for granted again!

This was not a DIY project for the most part, as we wanted it to get finished quickly and precisely the first time (this old house has lots of "quirks" that we weren't sure how to work around), so we called in the professionals.

When we moved into our "new-to-us" 1950's mountain home last August, I knew that the kitchen was one of the first things I wanted to update.  

As far as "old" kitchens go, it wasn't terribly ugly, though it was a little dated, but our oven was on its last leg and the dishwasher definitely wasn't doing its job, and I didn't want to take over.  We had a tall bar on the peninsula that really cut the room in half and made the area feel choppy and "closed off", not to mention it was hard to carry on a conversation with someone who was sitting at the table because we felt like we were separated by that wall.  If you scroll down you'll see what I'm talking about.  The bar area wasn't functional because if we had tall stools there, they cut into the limited dining space and made things feel really cramped.
We're not drinkers, so I knew I wanted to get rid of those wine cubbies, but I owe the credit for the genius solution to my sister, who suggested turning it into spice drawers.  Ding, ding, ding!  Winner!
The space is now functional and I'm loving my new spice/canned goods storage!
I knew I ultimately wanted a flat bar space area that the kids could sit up to at their level, with stools that tucked nicely and almost completely under the counter overhang.
I also wanted one large, unimpeded area for food prep.  It's amazing how much space was freed up by leveling that wall with the other counter space!  The area feels 2x bigger and so much more open too!
My husband knew I'd been watching a little too much "Fixer Upper" when I came to him and said, "Let's cut that wall down!".  :)  But he knew it was for the best.  And now that all is said and done, he's thanking Joanna Gaines for planting those wonderful seeds of inspiration.  :)
One of my happiest life moments was on demo day when that bar top came down.  I sent a mass photo text to family and friends signifying the momentous occurrence.  :)
Look how much more useable space we have!  It fits our family's needs perfectly.

I can't tell you how much I get a kick out of literally throwing the kids their pancakes in the morning from the stove (I may enjoy it a little too much).  And I don't even have to wipe down the table!
The shaker-style cabinets are Maple, which made our contractor cringe when we asked him to find someone to paint over them, but I wasn't a fan of the original light wood color.  I'd always wanted a bright, clean-looking kitchen, so I wanted to go ahead and have all the cabinets painted white.  Those plans changed when my husband suggested that since the wood grain was so nice on the one straight side of the kitchen, that we stain it instead.  I am SO glad we chose to do this, because the walnut color adds an important richness and warmth and prevents the "hospital", "washed-out" look.   
The White Ice granite countertops, combined with the subway tile backsplash, really tie both cabinet colors together and give it that cohesive look that we were going for.  I went back and forth between quartz and granite but settled on granite (and I'm SO glad I did) because the variation and movement in natural stone is unmatched.  

When those tops went in, I literally kissed them!  It's wonderful to have a place to prepare food again!  And it doesn't hurt that they're drop-dead gorgeous too! 
We hired a handyman to do the planked wall treatment (a.k.a shiplap lookalike) under the counter at the bar area, although, we did whitewash the wood ourselves. We purchased the wooden corbels (i.e. countertop supports) unfinished from Home Depot and painted them to match the planks. 

Our fun industrial-looking barstools were a steal of a deal at Target.  You can find a similar style HERE.  The beautiful wooden floors are original to the home.
I knew from the outset that I wanted a classic white subway tile backsplash with gray grout.  I wanted the tiles to really pop and to be able to see the clean lines.  I also didn't want to have to deal with white grout turning brown from dirt and grime over the years.

Our hand-plastered walls really gave our tile guy a headache since they weren't straight or square.  :)  I'm sure he was cursing me in his head when I asked him to take the tile to the ceiling in that area.  But I couldn't be more pleased with the results!
I'd originally wanted a farmhouse sink, but didn't want to give up precious cabinet space to put one in, so I "settled" (but not really) for an undermount cast iron white porcelain Kohler large single basin sink. I seriously love that I can just swipe the crumbs right into it and there's no pesky lip to deal with!  It just looks so clean and seamless too!  And, it can hide hold about a bajillion dirty dishes, so now I'm in a bad (or is it good?) habit of forgetting about them for a long while. :)

We re-installed the gooseneck faucet from before. Oh, and we now have a sink disposal!  I didn't realize how much I used that wonderful invention until I had to go without one for nine months.

We actually purchased both the sink and disposal from Amazon and it saved us a bundle because we got free shipping and the price was much lower than the other places we were looking for the very same products!
I'm in love with our cup pulls and knobs! We chose the antique iron finish.  You can find these and many, many more beautiful selections in countless styles, finishes and colors at D. Lawless Hardware!
You can see how well they look against the dark walnut finish too.
I was so glad that we already had these glass front cabinets to show off my dishes!  The white cabinets bring out the colorful contents inside even more!
We were so excited to get rid of the tiny wooden "belly button knobs" as we called them.  You can see what they looked like in the "before" photos above.  Oh, what a difference pretty "cabinet jewelry" makes!
We'll eventually replace our white microwave to match our stainless steel large appliances, but it's just working so well and I can't justify getting rid of it...yet.  :) 

It was nice that the original kitchen had recessed lighting, so that was one thing we didn't need to change.  At some point in the hopefully not-so-distant future when I'm feeling extra ambitious, I'll paint the now tan soffits a light gray color to tie in with the countertops.

We installed all new stainless steel large appliances, excluding the fridge, which we purchased when we first moved in last summer.  I love my convection oven!  It was a stressful moment when the plumber installed this unit and it barely fit!  We're talking within millimeters of the drawers and lazy Susan on either side! 

I could brag about my convection oven all day!  Ahhhh...it's the best!  It's a Kenmore from Sears.  It's got a warming drawer too!
 
My husband knows that I found a new love (a.k.a. my dream kitchen), and he's totally ok with it, because he'll certainly be reaping the benefits.  :) 

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with cooking and baking, but now I love being in the kitchen even more!  I could literally spend ALL day here!  It's my happy place!  I seriously "pass by" this room about a thousand times a day with no other excuse than to stop and stare.  I hope you enjoyed the tour!  

Whew!  Talk about information overload!  I hope I didn't forget anything.  If you have any questions, let me know and I'll gladly answer them if I'm able.

Do you have any home improvement projects in the works?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below!  

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fun in the Sun Ice Cream Party with Crunchkins™

Celebrate summer with this bright and cheery "Fun in the Sun" bash with an ice cream station, complete with Crunchkins™ candy for mouth-popping and toppings! 
School will be out for my kiddos in no time at all.  They are ecstatic.  Oh how I love the lazy days of summer!  We've got some fun things planned as far as visits to family and other excursions and of course lots of play dates with friends.  But I admit that often times it's nice to just be at home with nowhere to go...no commitments and an empty schedule.

We enjoy spending lots of time outdoors as a family hiking, biking, swimming, playing tennis and just catching some rays.  Staying indoors is a drag when the weather is so perfect outside!  Do you agree?

Nature just beckons us to come and play!  So in honor of the end of the school year and beginning of a much-needed break, I put together a simple back yard refreshment station complete with ice cream, Crunchkins™ candy for munching and a fun topping, and chocolate-dipped sugar cones!
We played some outdoor games, had a dance party and then took a break for some yummy treats!  

I wanted the color scheme to be cheery and bright to represent happy summer days, so I went with pink, orange, blue, green and yellow.  I added a yellow and white chevron table covering, a pretty pendant banner that I designed (available for download below) on the fence backdrop, and a vibrant orange tin bucket which I filled with ice and added tubs of our favorite ice cream.  

Download and print your FUN IN THE SUN banner here.  Just print it on white cardstock, cut out, then string on ribbon or baker's twine.  I attached it to the fence with some fun washi tape.
It just wouldn't be an ice cream party without delicious toppings, am I right?  
We loaded our ice cream cups with Crunchkins™ candies!  They're seriously addicting!
Have you tried them yet?  If not, look for them at your local Walmart at checkout!

They're new and SO yummy!
Crunchkins™ dessert poppers were definitely a best-loved party component.  It's like eating your favorite dessert in candy form!  The outside has a creamy coating and the inside is pleasantly crunchy and light!
Each 3 oz. package includes an assortment of three scrumptious flavors: Birthday Cake (my personal favorite), Fudge Brownie and Glazed Donut.   

Combine them with ice cream and chocolate-dipped sugar cones and it doesn't get better!
Sweet treats and happy faces go together!
Many of my childhood memories involve activities that we did as a family during the summer.  I want my kids to recall their time away from school with the same fondness.  This ice cream party is one we won't soon forget!

Be sure to check out Crunchkins™ for more information about this fun and tasty treat!


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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