Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dreaming of a spring picnic

Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothieHappy first day of spring! Can you even believe it? Well the answer for me is, quite frankly, no. It's still in the 30s in MN and my entire body is craving warmth that only the sun can provide.

Two years ago I was on maternity leave and the weather was amazing. Spring came early to MN and I was outdoors pretty much every day beginning in March. We hit 70 degrees and even had our first BBQ of the season on March 15. The number of picnics and BBQs we had that season were seemingly infinite. It was bliss and pretty much the best 3 months ever with my little babe.

Now that spring is here(?) I'm starting my bucket list for outdoor activities I hope to do. Picnics are always at the top of that list. Looking back at the hundreds of posts in the Eat Drink Pretty archives I found lots of lovely picnic experiences that we've enjoyed including:

A picnic at the lake with friends
A picnic during a fun cabin weekend with Erik (this was featured on The Kitchn)
A Mother's Day picnic in our backyard
The first picnic of the season

I pulled together a list of fun items to help you enjoy your spring picnic from Uncommon Goods, an online marketplace that has tons of creative and high quality items (especially perfect for gifts). Check out all their offerings here for outdoor dining and here for garden goods. There are so many great ideas for sprucing up the outdoor space for all your outdoor entertaining.

Here is a list of items to checkout for your upcoming picnics:

Glassware outdoors is never a good idea so these shatterproof wine glasses and carafe are the perfect solution. If you are hosting a more sophisticated outdoor soiree like a dinner party, these set a much more complementary tone than plastic glasses.

Honestly I've never considered doing fondue outdoors but why not? How awesome and fun. This fondue pot's steel frame protects the burner from the wind. And now my mouth is watering thinking of bread dipped in melty cheese.

Anytime a picnic or outdoor dining is involved we usually have lawn games as well. I love these wine glass holders, you can set your glass down when it's your turn to throw bean bags and not worry about the glass tipping over in the grass. Anything that conserves wine is at the top of my list.

This wine sack is a covert way to bring wine out in public during your picnic, sign me up. Much less obvious than pouring straight of the bottle. What's with public drinking being against the law anyway?

This picnic backpack is modern and sleek and includes tablesetting for two as well as an insulated pocket for your food.

Shouldn't all picnics include a cheese board? I think so. This cheese bark board would fit right into any rustic picnic setting. Cheese and bread is such a simple way to add a little sophisticated to any event.

And no picnic is ever complete without delicious food. You can keep things really easy with sandwiches or spend a bit more time whipping up a pasta salad or bruschetta.

Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothie Here is a list of recipe ideas for your spring picnic:
  • Pasta salad with goat cheese and tomatoes
  • Buttermilk pudding cakes (so easy, these are made in muffin tins. Bring a container full of cut strawberries and a whipped cream and build them on-site)
  • Bacon, avocado, turkey and tomato sandwiches - pile all the ingredients onto a rustic bread
  • Caprese skewers (finger foods at a picnic are ideal. So easy and always everyone's favorite)
  • Bruschetta in a mason jar (easiest recipe you'll ever find for bruschetta)
And don't forget your picnic supplies:
  • A picnic basket or cooler
  • Parchment paper: for wrapping sandwiches, breads, cookies, etc
  • Plates/napkins/silverware/glasses: either disposable or reusable if you don't mind packing up dirty dishes to wash later. Definitely the more environmentally friendly route.
  • A big blanket: your location may have a picnic table but if not a picnic right on the ground works great as long as you remembered your blanket.
  • Hand sanitizer: I love this natural spray from Honest company
  • Phone: no not to check email and social media but to put on music to set the mood.
  • Wine/beer/lemonade/water: I'm a big fan of booze at my picnics
  • Activities: anything from bean bags to a frisbee to a kite for flying with the little ones
Now I'm really itching for a picnic. Perhaps I'll just bundle up the family and have a spring picnic in the snow? I better be sure to include a thermos full of hot soup!

Don't forget that Mother's Day is coming up in less than two months! Uncommon Goods has a ton of great gift ideas like these for you to peruse and then (subtly) drop hints to your partner. It worked for me last December for my anniversary (I got this wood cookbook stand that I wanted and I love it).

Happy spring.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post by Uncommon Goods. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My favorite Aldi products

Ever since my partnership began with Aldi about a month ago, I've become an Aldi shopper. On the first couple trips I was learning the ropes (like how you have to put a quarter in to get a shopping cart, and how you bag your own groceries). But I'll admit my first couple trips happened rather hurriedly. I had Juliet with me on each occasion and didn't have time to really take in everything Aldi had to offer. 

But this last trip? Totally different story. Juliet was napping and home with Erik. I whipped up my grocery list and headed out the door. If you are a parent you'll probably agree that grocery shopping alone is somewhat of a luxury. Without Juliet I was able to spend more time checking everything out. 

What I discovered is that Aldi carries an awesome variety organic products. And I am totally pumped about this. Ever since Juliet was 6 months and eating solids, I became much more cognizant about feeding her (plus Erik and I) healthy foods. I make it a priority to buy organic foods for Juliet (not everything) and everyone knows that buying organic can be expensive.But not at Aldi. 

On my last trip I purchased 39 items and 36% of those items were organic. Aldi carries a brand called Simply Nature and a lot of those items are organic. Here is a list of all the organic items I purchased and their corresponding price. Ready to be shocked??

Organic lentil soup - $1.99
Organic chicken tortilla soup - $1.99
Organic spaghetti noodles - $1.19
Organic tomato basil marinara sauce - $1.99
Organic frozen strawberries - $2.69
Organic salsa - $1.99
Organic balsamic vinaigrette dressing - $1.99
Organic ranch dressing - $1.99
Organic agave nectar - $2.49 (I've bought organic agave nectar from Target and it was $3.99)
Organic diced canned tomatoes (28 oz.) - $1.49

And yes even some produce including
Organic baby kale - $2.49
Organic Gala apples (3 lb. bag) - $3.99

My favorite products are the organic frozen strawberries and the organic kale. I literally use those items every single day in my smoothies. 
Other organic products I noticed include organic carrots, organic potatoes (plus a few other organic produce items I can't recall at the moment).

They also carry uncured bacon (with no nitrates added). Juliet loves bacon but we don't let her eat it unless it's organic or nitrate free. Organic bacon is so damn expensive! But even though this Aldi bacon isn't organic, it's natural and nitrate free. And it only costs $3.89. I bought 3 packages of it.   Aldi carries single serve coffee cups (12 for $5.79, this is the lowest price I've ever seen).

Enjoying my strawberry, banana and spinach smoothie at work (made with the organic frozen strawberries I purchased at Aldi)

While I was impressed with the low prices on my first couple shopping trips, I can honestly say I was mostly excited about the low prices in combination with the organic offerings on this past Aldi experience. And now I feel like a true Aldi advocate. Because after that trip I started going around and telling all my friends, coworkers and family how awesome Aldi is and even showing the photo of all the organic products I bought that day. There is something really interesting about Aldi shoppers. If you get them talking, you will find that they don't just shop at Aldi, they love Aldi. I got a ton of great response from Aldi lovers on my last post, in my Instagram feed and via coworkers and friends that also shop at Aldi. It's like a secret-but-not-so-secret community of people that love Aldi. It's sort of funny but I get it. I really do. 

Disclosure - I am participating in a sponsored brand ambassadorship with ALDI. As always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My first ALDI experience

I had my first ALDI experience last week. I'll back-up a moment...an ALDI representative reached out to me a couple months ago to invite me to participate in a brand ambassadorship. I was pretty excited to jump in on this because my perception of ALDI was already pretty good based on my friends and family who are big fans. My parents shop there (I think their favorite item is the hummus), my younger brother and his fiance are ALDI shoppers, my sister-in-law and my brother shop there and so does a my friend and colleague Eden. When they talk about ALDI they sort of rave about it. So I figured, what the heck, I'd love to check it out.
To be honest I'd been hesitant to add ALDI to my grocery shopping routine because I've been a Super Target shopper for years with bi-weekly trips to Trader Joes. I live close to an ALDI but wasn't sure about adding yet another store into my busy routine.

I finally checked ALDI out last week and realized I can save a decent amount of money shopping there.
To be completely transparent here, I only buy organic milk for Juliet so I'll continue getting her milk at Trader Joes (ALDI doesn't carry organic milk). But Erik drinks regular skim milk and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ALDI brand Friendly Farms milk is made with no artificial growth hormones and it is cheaper ($2.49/gallon) than the price I am use to paying (anywhere from $2.79 - $3.50). Erik drinks A LOT of milk, so that will be nice savings over time. I brought the whole family grocery shopping with me

A couple important things to know before shopping at ALDI:

Be sure to bring a quarter with you, you'll need it to get a shopping cart. You put a quarter in to get a cart and then you get the quarter back when you return the cart.

You have to bring your own bags (or buy a reusable bag there) and bag your own groceries.

These things help keep costs down and prices low in the store.
Here is the grocery stash from my first trip. I spent $63, this is the lowest amount I have spent grocery shopping in a very long time. I usually never leave Target without spending at least $125. This stash included bacon-wrapped beef Erik picked up, eggs, bread, deli meat, produce (salad mix, peppers, mini peppers, apples, carrots), fresh mozzarella, hummus, cereal, artichokes, peanut butter, milk, frozen sliced fruit, almond milk, greek yogurt, dish soap and probably a few things I'm forgetting. Not bad, huh?

Another reason I know I'll save money from shopping at Target less and ALDI more is that I won't be tempted to buy random things I don't need (like shirts, accessories, etc). ALDI is a pretty small store (only about 5 aisles) so you get in and out quickly. You don't waste time wandering around aimlessly (which I've been known to do plenty of times at bigger grocery stores). I was able to pick up a few organic items including spinach, apples and carrots. I stocked up on sliced frozen fruit, greek yogurt and almond milk which are my daily smoothie essentials.
Peach, banana and spinach smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk but dairy milk would be fine, too)
Ripe banana
1 cup frozen peach slices
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
Handful of spinach
Ice

Preparation

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Needless to say my first trip to ALDI was a success. Are you an ALDI shopper? What are your favorite items?

Disclosure: I am participating in a sponsored brand ambassadorship with ALDI. As always, all opinions stated are my own.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sponsored post: upscale fashion brand Andrew Marc

Daphne Hobo Bag and Edible Flower Cupcakes 

Those of you that know me know that I'm really not that into fashion. I enjoy cute clothes and I try to look nice (well, most of the time anyway), but I actually hate shopping. I really mean it. I don't like shopping at all, the in-person/at-the-mall type shopping. And I NEVER try clothes on in the store. I walk in, grab whatever looks cute and is in my size, check out and I'm outta there. I never spend more than 10 minutes in any given store. Digging through racks is a nightmare for me. That's where online shopping comes in. Now that is the type of shopping I can enjoy.

I was pleasantly surprised when Andrew Marc contacted me to work together on this post. Andrew Marc is an upscale fashion brand with beautiful leather pieces and gorgeous accessories. They also have the brand Marc New York that carries a bunch of cute dresses and performance clothing. They also have free shipping, which is a must for me when it comes to online shopping. And for those of you that, unlike me, actually like to go shopping, you're in luck, these brands are sold at Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Von Maur.

My favorite item on the site is the Daphne Hobo Bag pictured above (it's on sale!).
  Tasha trench coat and a Ginger Sparkler 

I love this trench coat. It would be perfect for the fall (or spring). But we all know what season we're currently focused on and I really think I need to retire my fall jacket. It's many years old and green/beige colored with flowers but all of Erik's friends make fun of it because it sort of looks camouflaged.  
Florence Dress and Spring Cupcakes with Sugared Flowers 

This pretty floral dress would be perfect for any warm weather occasion. And there is still a bit of summer left so check it out, it's half off. Oh and those cupcakes? I've always wanted to make cupcakes with edible flowers. I could totally picture this dress being perfect for an afternoon tea or any baby/bridal shower.
Nadia dress and Chrysanthemum Cupcake

I LOVE long dresses. I wear them to work at least once or twice a week. My coworkers comment all the time about how I'm obsessed with long (usually Maxi) dresses. What can I say? Wearing flowy dresses is basically like wearing pajamas but still looks trendy and cute.  
London Jacket and a Classic Martini 

This leather jacket is sleek and sophisticated. I could never get away with those shoes, but the jacket? Maybe. Andrew Marc originated as a leather goods label so I am sure their leather pieces are amazing.  
The Club Jenna II Watch and Pear Lemon Fizz

I couldn't resist including this watch since it's named after me. Seriously though, this watch is super cute, I love the pop of mint green. Erik is a fan of buying watches as gifts so I'll have to hint to him about this one.

Is anyone else glad it's Friday? This week was a long one, maybe that's why I included cupcakes and cocktails with this post, I could sure use both. Maybe some retail therapy would be nice as well? Of course I mean online retail therapy.

Happy shopping.

This is a sponsored post with Andrew Marc. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sponsored post: four-cheese zucchini strata with Country Crock

Last week was a big week for a lot of families with kids going back to school. Juliet is obviously too young for school but we do have a summer and school year change in routine. Juliet's main daycare provider isn't open in the summer so we start a new year, so to speak, with her daycare when she opens again in September.

Evenings are always busy for us, regardless of summer versus school year for our family. Erik and I are both working parents, with very busy and demanding full-time jobs. I barely walk in the door before 6pm and having a home-cooked meal is a top priority for me. That doesn't mean I cook a meal every night. Our strategy is making 2-3 big meals a week and eating leftovers many evenings. We don't mind, we love leftovers. Leftovers mean dinner is on the table in about 5 minutes.
Prepping the casserole with pretty zucchini, summer squash and homemade focaccia bread

Luckily, this four-cheese zucchini strata casserole made a delicious meal that gave us a few nights worth of leftovers (as well as a couple lunches at work for me). Another nice thing about this recipe is that it's prepared the day before because it needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours (and up to 24 hours). So I prepped this dish last Sunday evening and had Erik put it in the oven on Monday. By the time I walked in the door from work, dinner was ready. Prepping meals in advance is a great tip for saving time during your busy weekdays.
I love my mandolin big time

Shall we talk about casseroles for a moment? I'll admit, they don't always make for the most pretty meals, but they are hearty, comforting and usually pretty easy to whip up. Casseroles are the type of dishes that are designed for the fall. I think I have a soft spot for all types of casseroles because I'm a Minnesota gal (we also like to call them hot dish) and Erik is a North Dakota boy where casseroles are a staple.

And while casseroles are not the epitome of healthy at all, this four-cheese zucchini strata isn't all that bad for you. I made homemade focaccia bread (I admit, this was pretty ambitious and would NEVER happen on a weeknight) and the other ingredients are cheese, eggs, milk and zucchini. It's a perfect dish for this time of year to use up all that beautiful zucchini growing in your garden or at your local farmers' market. It's meatless which also keeps it on the lighter side (Meatless Mondays anyone??). I also used Country Crock spread to saute the zucchini which has 0g trans fat per serving and doesn't contain any cholesterol or partially hydrogenated oils.  Getting ready to dig in

Four-cheese zucchini strata (recipe adapted Better Homes and Gardens)

Ingredients

4 medium zucchini and/or yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 5 cups)
2 tablespoons Country Crock 
8 cups garlic-flavor Italian flatbread (focaccia) cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup shredded provolone cheese (4 ounces)
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
7 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Snipped fresh parsley (optional)

Preparation

Lightly grease a 3-quart rectangular or oval baking dish; set aside. In an extra-large skillet cook squash with 2 tablespoons Country Crock over medium-high heat until light brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Place half of the bread pieces in the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the squash and half of each of the cheeses. Repeat layers.

In a large bowl combine eggs, milk, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour evenly over layers in baking dish. Using the back of a large spoon, gently press down on layers. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until set and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 170 degrees F. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with additional parsley if desired.

This dish was a hit with my family. Erik typically prefers his meals (especially dinner) to have meat included but he liked this dish and didn't say a word about it being meatless. Juliet was a bit fan of the focaccia and cheesiness of the dish, but I will admit she didn't eat much of the zucchini. 

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest and check out the latest board I added with casserole dishes and other "back to school" meal ideas.  Happy Monday!

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sponsored post: Signazon custom banners and signs

{Image credits: Martha Stewart and Signazon}

As someone who is a party planner (by hobby, not professionally) I am constantly planning my next event. Right now I am in the midst of dreaming up Erik and my first annual summer BBQ with our neighbors. We moved into our home a year ago, and right around that time almost all of our neighbors (we live on a cul-de-sac) stopped over and introduced themselves and gave us a really nice welcome. Erik and I wanted to return the favor via a neighborhood BBQ but it isn't until an entire year later that we are actually doing it. Well, better late than never, right?

As a party planner, you can never have too many good vendors and companies to work with. Everything from bakeries, to Etsy sellers, to printing companies to custom event banners...having a company that is easy to work with, has good customer service and ultimately great products is key to pulling off a successful event.

I recently was introduced to Signazon, a company that produces custom signs. They do signs for everything from small businesses to parties to welcome home banners. They also make window decals, car magnets and yard signs. Their typical turnaround time is 3-4 days, which is great given we all know that when planning an event, things sometimes get put off until the last minute. Be sure to check out their customer reviews page, which has over 1,600 customer testimonials and an overall rating of 4.5 stars (out of 5). Looks like they have a lot of happy customers.

Pictured above is a glimpse into the Lang summer BBQ that will be taking place in a couple weeks. I designed a custom banner to hang from our big white tent. I think the dude in the banner design sort of looks like Erik...um, maybe in 25 years? Well, they both have beards.

Here is the tentative menu for our big BBQ:

Burgers (who doesn't like a cheese-stuffed burger, or a "juicy lucy" as some people call them)
Corn on the grill
Root beer floats (this BBQ will have kiddos present and root beer floats are loved by adults and kids alike)
Grilled potatoes with salt and vinegar  (mmmmmmm, vinegar potatoes, yum)

We'll also be playing lawn games and sipping, wine, beer and lemonade. Can't wait! Hoping for a beautiful day.

Signazon custom event bannerAn example of a custom event banner by Signazon

Other ideas for uses of Signazon custom banners include baby showers, bridal showers, graduation parties, welcoming home a new baby, birthday parties and anniversary parties. The list goes on. Definitely check out Signazon for your custom banner needs. Enjoy party planning!

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post by Signazon. I was compensated for this post but as always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting sponsors of Eat Drink Pretty, which help offset costs of maintaining a blog.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Brunch with Smirnoff Sorbet Light

Last Saturday I hosted a brunch with my girlfriend Shannon, Emily and Natasha. We drank cocktails and had a wonderful spread. The food is always amazing and the drinks are always flowing and the company is always awesome when I am with these gals.

Smirnoff contacted me a couple weeks ago and asked if I wanted to try their new flavors of infused vodka. Typically I like mimoas with brunch but after trying these infused vodka recipes I have a few additional cocktails that I will definitely be adding to my brunch regime.
I wanted to add some light, colorful touches to decorate my home for our girl's brunch. I kept it easy and used lemons in tall cylinder vases and bought a bouquet of pink tulips and placed them in small mason jars and glass vases.  My entertaining philosophy is to keep things pretty simple. I add special touches here and there but I try not to go overboard, and I don't spend a ton of money. I also always focus on serving good food, which doesn't always mean homemade. And I always, always have alcohol.

Another entertaining philosophy I have is to divide and conquer. I am a big fan of hosting events but not necessarily providing everything. My friends and family are awesome and without fail, offer to bring something. I take them up on it almost every time.
Smirnoff sent me three bottles:

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Mango Passion Fruit
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Raspberry Pomegranate

We made three different cocktails with each of the vodkas. You will definitely want to check out these recipes at the end of this post. Two of the three of bubbly and perfect for brunch. The other is made with coconut water and is light and refreshing. Overall, this vodka has less calories than other dessert-inspired flavored vodkas. Plus, it's infused vodka, not flavored and it tastes way better.

The menu:

Strawberry bread
Fresh fruit
Bacon and egg strata
Bagels and goat cheese
Fruit tart
Cocktails!

Emily made an awesome strawberry bread and Natasha and Shannon made a beautiful plate of fruit with pineapple, strawberries, papaya and peaches.  Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pomegranate Punch (recipe at the bottom of this post) and gluten-free bagels with goat cheese.

I purchased this bacon egg strata at Byerlies the morning of the brunch. It was delicious.The whole brunch spread. Let's just say none of us gals went hungry. I also purchased this beautiful fruit tart for dessert. It was calling my name at the bakery counter of Byerlies. I set up a little Smirnoff cocktail bar on my foyer table. Smirnoff Sorbet Light Tropical Martini and Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon Pomegranate Punch.

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pomegranate Punch

Ingredients

1.5 oz Raspberry Pomegranate Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2 oz Diet Ginger Ale
1 oz Cranberry Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass (I like using champagne glasses but martini glasses would work too)
_________________________________________

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Tropical Martini

Ingredients

1.5 oz Mango Passion Fruit Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2 oz Coconut Water
1 oz Pineapple Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass
_____________________________________________

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon Pomegranate Punch

Ingredients

1.5 oz Lemon Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2.5 oz  Diet Sprite
1.5 oz Pomegranate Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass
_____________________________________________

What an awesome brunch we had. Thanks to Shannon, Emily and Natasha for such a great time. Can't wait to do it again soon.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post by Smirnoff Sorbet Light. As always, all the opinions are my own.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My spring love list

Ok so spring isn't actually here yet in Minnesota. We've had a few snow storms in the past two weeks and all of us Minnesotan's patience is up. We want green grass and warm sun. And stroller rides with babies!

Diet Pepsi reached out to me to put together a sassy spring love list, inspired by the newly designed can by Vern Yipp (HGTV star). The can is really cool (and mini!) and features Pantone's spring fashion and color report's dusk blue and a pretty peacock design.  The cans are being sold at your local grocery stores and Target (get them while you can, they are limited editions).

So the sassy part of this list is a bit funny to me...because I am not quite the sassy twenty-something I used to be.  Get a cocktail in me ten years ago and watch out, I was sassy as hell.  Now I'm a bit more reserved, (hello, I was in bed at 9pm last Friday night!).  But I'm sure there is still some sass left in there somewhere.

Of course my spring love list has to include a couple items for my sweet toddler girl...and overall represents things I'm loving lately:

  • The Sakura Bloom sling: I am a huge fan of babywearing.  Ever since Juliet was 8 pounds I had her snuggled up next to my chest in the Moby Wrap.  We existed that way, heart to heart, for many months until she got a bit big for the Moby and transitioned to the Beco Gemini.  We still use the Beco as well as this sling, which I love.  I use the hip carry which works best for a toddler. Some days Juliet wants to be held by mommy a lot and she is getting heavy, so this sling is the perfect solution.
  • Diet Pepsi: Coffee is my choice of caffeine in the mornings but Diet Pepsi is a great pick-me-up during an afternoon slump.  I like it with a slice of lime.
  • Honest Organic Lip Balm: I recently started using Honest products and really like them so far. I couldn't go as far as subscribing to their monthly diaper service, because of the price, but I like their Essentials Bundle which includes 5 products of your choice delivered every month to your door. I love that their products are chemical-free and also work really well. I love the lip balm, shampoo and bubble bath (I use all their products on Juliet).
  • Boon Snack Box: I anticipate going on lots of picnics this summer with Juliet and Erik. I use this snack box to pack Juliet's lunch and it will also be perfect for packing her picnic lunches and snacks while we lay on a blanket basking in the sun.
  • GAP Always Skinny Jeans: Like all women, especially moms, I'm always on the look-out for a great pair of jeans that actually look good on my post-baby body. I recently found these skinny jeans at GAP and I am in love. I wear them too much already and need to buy them in every color.
  • GAP Eyelet Colorblock dress: For Juliet, of course...this little dress has been on my Pinterest board for the past couple of weeks. Isn't it so adorable! I'm waiting for it to go on sale.

And there you have it...my (sassy?) spring love list. Is there anything super fun on your spring love list?

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Diet Pepsi and as always, all opinions are my own. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

A girl's night (in) dinner party

Last Friday my girlfriends and I had a much-needed dinner party/girl's night at my place.  The party was a bit of a potluck style dinner party, which lowers stress levels on my part as the hostess.

The more I entertain lately, the more I love the idea of doing things potluck style.  Of course, there is a time and place for throwing a totally awesome party where I do everything myself, but for the most part, those are few and far between.  And at the end of the day, both types of parties are still fabulous.

But because this is me we're talking about, I wanted somewhat of a theme to the dinner party.  So we went with a Spring(ish) Italian style.  It was light on the theme but helped determine what everyone contributed.

You'll notice all the photos are Instagram pics.  Erik went to a friend's place and brought our laptop which had my camera SIM card in it.  Oh well, what do you do??

Here is the breakdown of what everyone brought / what was on the menu:

Appetizers
Alexia Sweet Potato Puffs
Alexia Mozzarella Sticks
Alexia Mushroom Bites
Assorted Olives
Brie, Sharp Cheddar and Blue Cheese
Chips and salsa

Salad
Spring Salad with Grapes and Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese

Main Entree
Cheese Ravioli with Olive Oil, Parmesan and Dried Cranberries
Alexia Artisan Ancient Grain Rolls

Dessert
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Um, we dipped these sweet potato puffs in ranch dressing.  So good. Cheese overload.  While us gals were eating our faces off we joked around about how our guys often "forget" to eat when they are hanging out and having drinks.  We would NEVER ever forget.  I mean, seriously!!Olives are such an easy snack to have at any dinner party.
Libby made this salad and it was absolutely delicious.  She rolled each one of those pistachio crusted  goat cheese balls by hand, so this salad is a bit time-consuming.  But totally worth it.  We all raved about the salad.  My friend Summer made ravioli.  She kept it fairly light with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of parmesan and dried cranberries.  It was really good and I'll definitely be making this for dinner sometime soon.  I've made these buttermilk pudding cakes before (I call them strawberry shortcakes). They are pretty easy to make and are a light dessert for spring.  

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with Strawberries (recipe via Martha Stewart)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole or low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 9 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) fresh raspberries
  • Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees with a rack positioned in the top third of the oven.
  2. Sift together flour and baking powder in a large bowl. In another large bowl beat eggs until creamy and yellow. Whisk in buttermilk, vanilla, 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar, and butter (mixture will look curdled and broken). Slowly add flour and whisk until batter is smooth and combined.
  3. Spray 8 standard-size (3-ounce) nonstick muffin pan cups with nonstick cooking spray. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin pan cups, filling about two-thirds full. Transfer to oven and bake until sides of cakes are evenly browned (check by inserting a knife tip between the rim of cake and muffin cup, pulling gently to expose side of cake), about 9 minutes. If cakes are not evenly browned, they will not hold together when inverted. Continue baking, checking every minute, until evenly browned.
  4. Meanwhile, place raspberries in a medium bowl; add remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and gently toss to coat.
  5. Invert cakes onto eight individual plates. Place berries on top and alongside cakes; serve with whipped cream, if desired.
Thanks to my girlfriends Libby, Summer, Alena and Deanna for a fun night!  
And thanks to Alexia Foods for sponsoring this dinner party.  Check out the fall-inspired dinner party I threw with more fabulous Alexia products and an awesome menu.

Disclaimer:  I am being compensated for partnering with Alexia Foods as an Alexia Tastemaker.  This partnership allows me to try their new products and incorporate their food into my everyday life and entertaining.  All the opinions are my own.