Fruit Desserts for Summer and a Giveaway!

*This post is sponsored by Rich Products as part of their Give Bakery Because program.  A grocer’s bakery is the convenient and ideal location to purchase delicious baked goods that can be customized for any gift giving occasion.  Rich’s and I encourage you to head to your local in-store bakery the next time you need delicious, sweet treats – or just because.  But all these opinions are mine.

Summer entertaining made easy with fresh fruit and store-bought cookies for dessert. #givebakery #ad // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comHow is 4th of July in a little over a week?!  Life is moving too quickly for my taste.  I think we all just need to slow it down and make sure we are taking time to enjoy life and spending it with the ones we love.  I’m really looking forward to our annual block party on Independence Day.  It starts with a city-wide parade where the kids participate by riding their decorated bikes and throwing (and subsequently picking up) lots of candy.  Then we chill for a few hours and then head down the street to hang with the neighbors and a HUGE bounce house/ water slide/ ER-visit-inducing contraption.  Everyone is supposed to bring items to share.  I hate just bringing chips.  I always feel so lazy setting those down when the cute gals from around the neighborhood show up with crazy delicious homemade brownies and cookies, etc.  And while I want to step up my potluck game, I still don’t want to spend a lot of time on it.  The perfect solution is starting with a store-bought base and then adding my own touches.  This year I’ll be bringing a berry, basil dessert bruschetta (served on the perfect store-bought sugar cookies).  Boom.  Fruit desserts are perfect for summer.

Fresh fruit and store bought cookies makes a super easy treat for your summer parties. #givebakery #ad // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comYou only need a few ingredients for this dessert and they are so yummy!  I also love that you don’t really need any serving utensils for this and they are super easy to grab.  Start by cleaning your fresh berries (for this I used strawberries and blueberries but of course you can add others – raspberry seeds freak me out and their color is not patriotic enough for me but if you want to use them, I guess YOU can) and rinse your basil (Mint would be another good option but use your favorite fresh herb.  I find that the fresh herb helps to cut the sweetness of the berries and cookies a smidge).

Fresh fruit and herbs make this sugar cookie and fruit bruschetta perfect for 4th of July and summer entertaining. #givebakery #ad // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI chopped my strawberries and put them in a bowl.  I decided to keep the blueberries whole for their color and have you seen the insides of a blueberry?  Off putting.  It makes me think of zombies.  Which is not super appetizing in terms of dessert presentation.

Fruit bruschetta with basil will delight your party guests. And it's so easy to make with store bought cookies! #givebakery #ad // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comOnce your fruit is prepared, and you have added your chopped herbs (mine are chiffonaded because I’m fancy like that.  I also make up tenses of words) toss it altogether and grab your store-bought cookies.  In this case, I added some store-bought whipped cream to the cookie first and then piled on the berries.  If these are going to sit out at all, though, you might want to let guests add the whipped cream themselves as it can melt.  These could easily be set out as a “station” so people could make them themselves.  For a do-it-yourself bar, I would put the bowl of berries on top of a bowl of ice and keep the whipped cream in a wine chiller.  Then set the cookies and a spoon and your job is done. [Read more...]

Easy and Quick Meal Solutions

This post is sponsored by Fresh and Easy.  These easy and quick meal solutions are all mine.

My tips for making meals that are fresh and easy.

My easy and quick dinner solution is tacos. You can buy everything pre-prepped and just throw them together. My tip is to broil them to get the cheese melty and keep the store-bought shells crisp. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comMy mom makes my all time favorite tacos.  All time.  She takes corn tortillas and fries them, using two forks to shape them in to taco shells.  Then she uses the most delicious spiced beef, fresh lettuce that she lovingly cuts by hand, and hand-shredded medium cheddar cheese.  Once each taco is filled, she puts the whole lot of them in to an oven to melt the cheese and slowly dry out the shells keeping them super crispy.  They are crazy good.  But.  There is no way I would ever put that much effort in to making tacos.  I like to keep things easy and quick.  With our busy family schedule, even if I wanted to spend more time in the kitchen doing more of the prep work, our schedule just doesn’t allow for it.  So the way I’m able to get tacos, which can be a pretty healthy meal, on the table, is using pre-prepped items.  Most of the time convenience means processed.  And since I am really trying to take processed foods out of my family’s diet I was starting to feel like I wasn’t going to have to the option of fast tacos.  Then I found these ready-to-go taco shells from Fresh and Easy which are just corn flour, coconut oil and water.  Yeah!  I didn’t know that Fresh and Easy puts a focus on providing fresh, wholesome food that doesn’t include artificial flavors, colors transfats, high-fructose corn syrup and other gross things.  And that they do everything they can (like have almost all self-checkout) to keep it affordable.  THANK YOU!  My fast tacos can continue!  Which is awesome since it is one of the only meals I make that my oldest son actually says he enjoys.

Salsa is a great side option for a taco dinner. I look for one in the refrigerated section for a fresher flavor. And chips, in moderation, are always a good idea. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comWhen I can, I make my own salsa but this pre-made version is a really great alternative.  Salsa from the refrigerated section usually means that the ingredients are fresh and the flavor will be vibrant.  It is the perfect thing to go along with the tacos.  It can be used as a condiment or for chips.  Luckily my kids enjoy salsa so I know they are getting in some good nutrients from the tomatoes and I love that there is no extra sugar added.  I don’t have a Fresh and Easy store close to my house so the other day I headed to the next town to see what they had to offer.  I was pleased that although the store is small in size, you can find everything you need to put good, healthy meals together.

Caprese salad makes an easy and healthy snack. Add some pasta or chicken to make it more of a meal! #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI’m kind of addicted to basil.  You’ve probably noticed that I’ve used it in the last several food or drink posts.  One of my favorite snacks is a bite sized caprese salad.  The fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are just perfect altogether.  Sometimes I skip the cheese and just do the tomatoes and basil for when I’m really trying to keep away from dairy.  These ingredients are super versatile and you can make them in to more of a meal by adding a bed of arugula.  Or take it up one more notch, even, by adding in some shredded chicken.  A light drizzle of a good olive oil, maybe a little aged balsamic vinegar and some Maldon Sea Salt and you are set.  This is a perfect dish to take on picnics or even your kid’s baseball practice when you need to eat on the go.  Cherry tomatoes are a good snack for kids as they tend to be really sweet and it seems like kids really like sweets.  They might not really enjoy the basil but it is important to get them to try it again over time.  I find that my kids will finally give in and decide to like something after months of saying they hate it.  So don’t be discouraged if they turn their nose up at the basil at first.  Basil is a great bold flavor and you can use it in more than just a caprese.  Add this to your turkey sandwiches in place of lettuce, and tossed in with your normal salad greens for a pop of flavor.  I have a little basil plant in my kitchen that I can pull from which makes it really easy to keep around.

My go-to salads have lots of nice protein to keep me feeling more full for longer. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comAnother great idea is to purchase pre-made salads and then modify them to suit your dietary needs or flavor preferences.  Fresh and Easy has great options of pre-packaged meals, some organic like the salad above, that you can easily add to your meal plan.  This salad would work great as a lunch for myself, or I could share it with my family as a side dish for dinner time.  Don’t be afraid to use items in different ways.  Although it is packaged as a salad for one, consider how you might be able to use the ingredients separately or what you can add to make it more your style.  

I make an easy and quick store-bought salad feel more homemade by putting it in a bowl and using a little bit of my favorite olive oil and a fresh squeeze of Meyer Lemon juice. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI’m really watching what I put in to my body at the moment so I knew I wouldn’t use the caesar dressing that came with this salad.  I grabbed a large bowl and started transferring the pre-made salad in to it.  By doing this I was able to really see what was in the salad and take out when I didn’t want.  I left the sun dried tomatoes which added a nice flavor even though they were probably packed in oil at some point.  Then I removed some of the parmesan cheese so I felt like it all balanced out whatever oil may have been left over.  To make this more to my liking, I added a drizzle of my most favorite olive oil and squeezed some fresh Meyer lemon juice all over it.  I gave it a quick toss and then added some fresh ground black pepper.  So good!  I have to say that the ingredients in the salad were some of the best looking and freshest that I’ve ever seen in a prepackaged salad.  It surprised me.  I should have grabbed a few more of these! 

Boom Chicka Pop popcorn for a fast and easy snack. #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI mentioned before that I can’t quit the popcorn right now.  I usually pop my own in the microwave but it is nice to have a bag ready to go in the pantry with no extra ingredients.  Fresh and Easy has tons of great products with their name on it but they also carry other brands as well.  I was delighted to see so many great, healthy options throughout the store like this popcorn from Angie’s.  Popcorn has really helped me get over my after dinner snacking habit.  The crunch is just what I need to feel satisfied.  And I add a ton of fresh ground black pepper for flavor.  I’m almost as addicted to black pepper as I am to basil! 

Always fun to peruse the wine aisle of a new grocery store. Especially when you don't have your kids.  #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI love a good wine aisle and was so excited to be able to take my time and check it all out.  I don’t know about you, but while I don’t always love to do the grocery shopping, there is something super relaxing about shopping alone.  And I feel like wine is one area where a lot of the makers really go all out on label design.  It is fun to look at the labels and see what brands different stores carry.  On this day I didn’t have my kids with me so I could take my time and really browse.

I heart CA wine from @FreshandEasy. I adore the colors and label design. Fingers crossed it tastes good too! #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comFresh and Easy has a store brand wine in a ton of varieties.  I decided to pick up a bottle of the I Heart California Sauvignon Blanc to see if it tastes as good as it looks.  I’ll keep you posted on that one.  But for now it looks cute in my wine rack.  And if all else fails, you can elevate any meal you are serving just but serving a glass of wine along with it.  My best friend’s parents growing up used to do this.  And while I am sure that they were not trying to instill a life lesson, I totally remember them getting out the red wine to drink with their meatloaf.  There are nights when your quick and easy meal is not going to be glamorous.  So open a bottle of wine and roll with it.  

Look for @freshandeasy stores for great easy and quick meal solutions! #ad #freshandeasy // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comYou should absolutely be sure to check out a Fresh and Easy store in your area (stores are located in CA, NV and AZ).  I think I will make monthly visits so I can check out even more of their store-brand products…I will tell you, there were tons of amazing looking ice creams in their freezer section that I will happily check out when I fall off my healthy eating wagon.  I SO wish this store was closer to my house!  In eating more fresh fruits and vegetables I find myself at the store quite a few times a week.  My normal grocery store is so large and has so many options that it takes forever to navigate around.  Fresh and Easy stores make it quick and easy to get in, and get out and get right back to being with your family.

*Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Cupcakes and Cutlery going.  All opinions are always my own.

 

 

Patio Decor Ideas

Colorful patio decor  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThe weather in sunny southern California allows us to pretty much sit outside year round.  And it’s killing me that my family doesn’t have a ridiculously cool outdoor set up to chill out in.  Next week I’m sharing my little outdoor oasis that my husband put together for me for Mother’s Day, but my dream fresh air experience has tons of bright patio decor.  In my opinion, you can’t have too many colors.  I’d take my wine, magazines and a patio playlist to my al fresco living space and relax all weekend long.  Here are some more great patio decor ideas for my dream patio:

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Goal Setting for the Blog and a DIY Tutorial

Create and inspiring work space.  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comMy head is spinning.  Recently I found out a number of things that were wrong with my blog, behind the scenes.  I have always felt like things weren’t set up right but I really didn’t know why.  So I decided to some research and try to teach myself new things.  Holy moly.  The issues that I knew were there but didn’t know were there (are you with me?) started to become apparent.  Which is both awesome and awful at the same time.  It is awesome because I now know some of the things that I want to fix but now I need more time so I can fix all of them!  I decided to sit down and write out my current goals for updating the blog.  Writing down goals is a really great way to help you get your mind right.  Instead of sitting here with a jumbled head, I can set a plan for how to get it all done.

Easy tutorial for decoupage planter/vase.  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI sat down at my new work space, which I made pretty with this adorable DIY decoupage planter, and really thought about things in terms of priority and function.  By writing out these steps, it also helped me to figure out who in my blogging community might be able to answer some questions I still have about processes or be able to provide some guidance in some way.  

Goal setting for the blog:  current things to improve on.  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI went from feeling all sorts of weird about my blog to having a game plan.  My heart literally races with excitement about getting to work on these goals.  If you know anything about blogging you know that goals 1 and 3 are no small task.  But they MUST be done!  With over 1000 posts, this is going to take me a while.  But I’m ready!  I’ve researched the best way to go about these tasks and am looking forward to marking them off my list.  And goal number 4 starts now!  I have been so lucky to have met a community of great gals online who are always willing to give me their attention.  And I want to make sure to do the same for them!  My husband says I’m already done with #5.  Isn’t he sweet?

Head over to the Tiny Prints blog to check out the full tutorial for my DIY Decoupage Planter inspired by this rad postcard.  What are your blog goals?  What major projects are you taking on?

Clean Eating Recipes

Roasted veggie farro salad.  So yum!  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.com I found myself in a really crazy, unhealthy spot a month ago.  I was concurrently taking antibiotics for a sinus infection, along with steroids for said infection, a muscle relaxer for a strained muscle and had a pain shot for the pain from said strained muscle which I was instructed not to take with my headache pill because they would not react well together.  I looked at all of that and just stopped.  I don’t want to be taking all of that.  It just shows how unhealthy my whole life is.  I don’t fault the doctors for just layering all of that on, they can’t be the only director of our health at this point.  Gone are the days where they truly care about our overall health and focus more on the ailment at hand.  Which leaves us to be the controller of our temple.  And my temple was falling apart.  In conjunction with Andrea’s challenge, I decided that I need to make some changes in my life.  And I’m starting with food.  I attribute all my cellulite to processed foods and see that my kids are consuming an awful lot of junk food in our crazy, busy life.  So while I am not going whole hog (I refuse to throw away the food that is in my freezer and cupboard simply to start over – there is far too much money invested in that to throw it away), I am changing our meals a little at a time and taking this time to really learn about clean eating.  My kids don’t love it but they are trying.  My husband is totally on board.  And I have to say, aside from trying to get in enough protein to keep me feeling full, the food has been delicious!  I wanted to share a few of the things I have made recently with you.  So feel free to change these up to suit whatever your diets needs or flavor preferences are.  And not all of these recipes might not be the cleanest as written, I know I can modify them to be.

Fantastic Clean Eating Recipes

This cold, roasted veggie farro salad is AMAZING!  I brought this to a barbecue and everyone loved it.  I was able to make most of it the day ahead so it is a great entertaining recipe.  I left the cheese out of mine but served it for anyone else who wanted it.  And the leftovers were fantastic too!

A strawberry vinaigrette?  Yes!  SO good!  Perfect on baby spinach and chicken and whatever.  I have not made her whole salad recipe as she has it in this post, I just wanted to try out the dressing recipe for my son who doesn’t like salads.  This didn’t make him like salads.  But it made me love this dressing.

I’ve been addicted to popcorn because I get snacky and feel like it is probably a pretty safe, clean bet.  Well, probably better than cheetos.  I have not tried this Sea Salt and Coconut Popcorn recipe yet but it seems like the perfect snack when you need a little treat.

I made this strawberry chia seed jam to replace the hopped up stuff I had been putting on my kid’s sammies.  Chia seeds are amazing.  They sort of congeal making the fresh cooked strawberries not runny but, duh, like jam.  And it tastes amazing!  And it is super easy.  And you can see how you could use all different kinds of berries to make more combos.  Mmmmmmms, maybe a little ginger peach chia jam for my oatmeal?

I have not made this yet but how crazy does this coconut “bacon” sound?  I know it will probably never really take the place of legit bacon but I love coconut and might be another great way to add some texture to salads.  I try not to have too many nuts around the house because of an allergy so sometimes my salads aren’t as well-balanced, texturally speaking.

I’ve started a clean eating board on Pinterest if you want to find more recipes to try out.  And don’t forget to browse Andrea’s site for some REALLY helpful posts on healthy swaps and how to handle the prep involved for making clean eating meals a priority.