Monday, September 15, 2014

Everybody Loves S'Mores!

Fall is my favorite season.  I love the color, the crisp air, and the harvest season foods.  I'm also a big fan of S'mores.   In the fall the best way to spend a weekend night is around a big fire making s'mores.  The great thing about s'mores is that they made be made indoors or out.  S'mores are popular in a crowd and make excellent party favors.  A kit may be easily crafted and handed out to guests as a party treat or an extra special take home present.   

S'mores!
There are many, many ways to package a s'more kit.  If your party, wedding, or special event has a specific theme - use it!  Small favor boxes, theme bags, or novelty containers make clever packages for s'more kits.  You can be as creative as you like from specialty printed packaging with printed tags to simple bags for single serve s'mores.  The basics for the kit are in the photo below.  Purchase graham crackers, marshmallows, Hershey's chocolate, and skewers for the s'more.  I also use Junior Mints for an added twist.

S'more ingredients
Make your kits with enough ingredients for two s'mores per kit.  Break the graham cracker sheets in half and stack four halves.  

Graham Crackers
Next pull the marshmallows into two pieces.  You may choose to use the marshmallows that are flat and specially made for s'mores.  I place one Junior Mint on one half of each marshmallow.

Junior Mints
Close the marshmallow with the Junior Mint in the center and stick the skewer through it - like a candy kabob.  Use two marshmallows per skewer.  Once the marshmallow is roasted, there is chocolatey mint goodness in each s'more bite!

Junior Mint Kabob
Unwrap the Hershey's bars.  It is also delicious to use Ghirardelli chocolate pieces in mint, peppermint bark, or chocolate caramel pieces for a gourmet take on the traditional s'more.

Hershey's chocolate
Stack the graham crackers on the bottom, then the chocolate into whatever packaging you choose to use.  Place two marshmallow skewers in each package.  Cross the skewers and tie the bag close at the point where the skewers cross.  This creates stability for the bag.  Use a twist tie so if you only eat once s'more, the bag may be closed easily and the other s'more eaten later.

The kit

 In the s'more kit, I like to place one skewer with Junior Mints and one without for variety.  
 
Delicious!

  Enjoy s'mores with friends and family and Happy Fall Y'all!

Yum!




#autumn  #hersheys #juniormints #chocolate #marshmallow #diy #yummy #delicious
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Muffin Tops, Skinny Jeans, and Junk in the Trunk

In 2014 the combination of mass marketing and urban slang creates a confusing lingo that borders on comedy of the absurd.  As if women and some men don’t already have body issues, our culture slaps on a labeling system for our appearance and clothes that is a whole new language you must closely study to understand – and be very careful not to use out of context.  I love baking and eating.  I love muffins, especially the muffin tops.  The muffin top is the best part of the muffin.  It usually has the strudel topping, extra berries, or the pat of butter you add when it’s hot.  Sounds delicious, right?  Well you would never say that if you are under 30 years old.  Today “muffin top” is the term for that extra bit of fat we have above the waistline.  If someone decides to wear pants with a tighter waist band, the muffin top could turn into a jumbo muffin top.  I’m not kidding.

Photo Courtesy of Bryce Palmyra

Let’s talk about the popular shapewear that women use to reduce their muffin tops, although I’m still sad that the muffin top has been desecrated by urban lingo.  Yummie Tummie is the newest line of fashion girdles to squeeze and smooth body parts that give us a little trouble under our clothes.  It is confusing again because I love things that are yummy; I love to eat yummy treats.  Putting on Yummie Tummie makes your torso very constricted.  It is kind of like the beginning of anaphylaxis when you starting feeling like you can’t breathe and everything gets tight and woozy.  Good thing I keep an Epi-Pen in my purse.  So I guess the word yummy is out now too.

And finally, everyone is driving around with junk in their trunks.  We keep the tools, trash, sporting equipment, etc. as part of our “junk in the trunk.”  But in 2014, Junk in the Trunk means those extra inches around our waists or backsides.  What if you innocently ask someone to help you clean out the junk in your trunk?  It could spell disaster for a relationship and major embarrassment!  Maybe you need to purchase a Yummie Tummie to help you with the junk in your trunk instead.

While the lingo for our bodies being curvy has expanded, our clothing has seemingly gotten smaller – way smaller.  The most popular style of pants right now is the Skinny Jean.  It is simply unfair.  Skinny Jeans are tiny little pants that are made to fit people that are super thin; like being infested with tape worms thin.  They are in every store and every popular magazine.  Talk about a conundrum!  Think about the stress on women!  So, my best idea to solve our problem with dressing in this very confusing new ‘food as words’ culture we find ourselves in is this:  Get a pair of Yummie Tummie to squeeze the muffin top and junk in the trunk into your skinny jeans.  And by all means, be very careful with your words! 


#junkinthetrunk  #muffintop #skinnyjeans  #yummietummie #yummy
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Use What You Have: Crafting a Simple Centerpiece

I love having people over for dinner, lunch, holidays, movies - I like being in a group with people I love.  I think my favorite part is eating and laughing with my friends.  It is also fun to plan the menu and set a table that is interesting or pretty.  Creating a centerpiece for different occasions without breaking the bank can be a challenge.  I am fortunate to live in an area that is plentiful with sticks, foliage, and woodsy elements.  Running outside and trimming a tree here and there and gathering a few pine cones saves time and money.  For my wedding, I incorporated the outdoors into our rustic elegance theme and it worked beautifully and the cost savings was HUGE.  Using what I had available was the best way to go.


Simple Centerpiece
The effect I wanted was a theme of rustic elegance with elements from the outdoors incorporated with many, many candles.  I started by cutting branches and twigs from trees in the yard.  The wedding was in April so I was fortunate that the leaves had not yet begun to grow on the trees where I live.  I cut them a few weeks ahead of time so they would dry out and not be as heavy.  If you use a solid vase, the weight shouldn't be a big issue.  The vases came from IKEA, they are 27 inches or so tall.  I loved the effect and the arrangements allowed everyone to speak across the table with ease.


Vases
I also collected pine cones from outside to fill the vase and cover the cut edges of the cut twigs.  The florist came along and added gorgeous greenery and ivory flowers to the top of the vase.  Janna is amazing, her talents is utterly stunning.  Thanks Callista Designs!  Purchasing the vase and adding the (free) woodsy elements saved so much money and made the centerpieces extremely affordable - especially for being almost five feet tall!  Whether or not you add flowers or greenery is up to you.  


Rustic & Elegant
My table top obsession is candlelight.  I love candles and wanted many candles in different shapes and sizes.  I found an online wholesaler that charged pennies for tea light candles and the pillar candles were more than reasonably priced.  


Candles
The candlelight was elegant and gave the room a warm glow.  We didn't use light other than the candles.  I think candlelight gives everyone a warmth to their skin and makes us all look beautiful.


Warm Glow
By using what I had available for no cost, the look I wanted was achieved at a discounted price.  The centerpieces were sublime and added the perfect touch to the table settings - and they were easy!  Creating something gorgeous and elegant does not have to cost a fortune or take hours of your time.  


The dining room before the reception

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Easy Homemade Ginger Ale and Soda!

  With the Labor Day weekend upon us, I thought it would be fun to celebrate the end of summer with a versatile and easy homemade soda recipe.  Soda is such an unhealthy monster; the chemicals, the calories, the sugar, shesh! If a substance can be used to tenderize meat, maybe we shouldn't drink it?  This recipe allows you to make your favorite flavor of delicious and crisp soda with no chemicals and allows control of the sugar content.  It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to make - then relax with your soda on the porch watching the summer sunset!


Homemade Ginger Ale
To make homemade ginger ale, you need seltzer water, one cup of sugar, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chopped ginger root, and fresh mint is optional.  In the photo there are also ingredients for a lemon soda with watermelon, it tastes similar to sprite or 7up.


The ingredients
Begin by combining one cup of water with one cup of sugar in a pot to make a simple syrup.  You may adjust the sugar up or down depending on your preferences.  Also add the chopped ginger.  If you like extra ginger add up to 1/3 cup.


Step One
Bring the contents of the pot to a boil.  Once the mixture is boiling and the sugar dissolves, remove the pot from the heat.  I also threw a couple of mint leaves in for good measure.  Allow the pot to cool and then sit for a couple of hours at least.  The syrup will last for a few days in the refrigerator.  The longer you allow the flavors to steep together, the stronger your soda will be flavored.


Bring the pot to a boil
 The next step is optional.  If you like mint, crush a few mint leaves in the bottom of a glass.


Crush mint leaves
 Prior to serving the ginger ale, fill glasses (with or without mint leaves) with ice.


Ice cold
Mix 1/8 cup of the simple syrup into the glass with ice and mint.


Add syrup
Fill the glass with seltzer water.  The amount is up to you based on the strength of flavor that you like.  Usually 8 ounces is about right.  You may add more or less syrup or water at this point.  Give the glass a stir.


Add seltzer water
 For a lemon flavored soda, follow the same steps as above.  Mix a simple syrup and instead of chopped ginger use lemon peel and zest in the same proportions.  Allow the syrup to steep.  Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into your serving glass along with a lemon twist for good measure.  I add watermelon chunks for added sweetness (and lycopene).  Add the same proportions of syrup and seltzer water.


Lemon soda coming up!
It would also be great to use peaches, strawberries, blueberries, or limes.   Whatever your favorite fruit flavors are - use them!  Spend the weekend relaxing with family and friends over a tall glass of yummy soda.  No sodium benzoate, high fructose corn syrup, or phosphoric acid here!


Enjoy!


#gingerale #labordayweekend #coke #sprite #diy #delicious #homemade
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

And I'm Back.

I've been MIA from the blog for the last week.  I've had a somber few days; I fluctuated between sitting in the fetal position and drowning my stress in fatty foods.  Our family watched a loved one succumb to cancer.  We were fortunate to be with him as he crossed over so I am grateful for that.  He courageously battled the horrible, horrible disease for several years.  It wasn't unexpected, but is death ever expected?  Can we actually prepare ourselves fully for the passing of someone we love?  


But there is Joy in the Morning
It's a difficult situation you can never understand until you live through it.  I had no idea until experiencing it with my grandfather in 2007.  The death of a loved one changes life forever - everything changes.  I hate change, I hate getting used to the idea that someone I love won't be there anymore.  It takes so much getting used to and grief can be really heavy.  I don't have anything profound to say.  I'll be back to blogging tomorrow - but I'll sign off with this quote from Rick Warren that has really helped me.



Amen.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Effortless and Exquisite follower breazy4444 - the winner of our Barney Butter Giveaway!  Exciting almond goodness is in your future for sure!  Barney Butter is the best almond butter I've tried in a long time and I'm happy to feature it on this blog.  


Barney Butter!
Be sure to check out Barney Butter on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are breazy4444, please contact us at effortlessandexquisite@gmail.com to claim your prize.  Stay tuned for the next giveaway that is right around the corner!
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Another Week, Another Giveaway!

Happy Monday Ya'll!  Let's start this week off on a high note - a GIVEAWAY!  This week delicious goodness comes to us from Barney Butter!  I happened upon Barney Butter a couple of months ago while looking for a non-greasy almond butter to eat with bananas.  I like to dip them; I digress.  Almond butter is great since so many people are allergic to peanuts and I don't like to keep them in my house.  I think it has a rich flavor and almonds are super healthy so what's not to like?  Barney Butter intrigued me, first because I love the name, and second the packaging is very cool.  I decided to dig a little deeper and discovered that Barney Butter is a company that I can really get behind.  So this week, Effortless and Exquisite is giving away a free jar of Barney Butter!


Photo courtesy of Barney Butter
Barney Butter is the creation of a California mom that was on the hunt for an alternative to peanut butter and those bland almond butters on the market.  The company was born in a home kitchen by an enterprising woman - girl power!  She started selling the popular butter in 2006 and the rest is AB & J history (almond butter and jelly, by the way).


Photo Courtesy of Barney Butter
Today Barney Butter is sold nationwide in supermarkets and online.  The success is because it is yummy.  There are several creative flavors to choose from. Barney Butter is Non-GMO Certified, Kosher, and Gluten Free with no hydrogenated oils in their jars.  It was fun to sample the products because I wouldn't think of certain flavor combinations - but they work and they're great!


Snack pack samples
Barney Butter sent me three flavors to try.  The Regular, Cocoa + Coconut, and Vanilla Bean + Espresso.  Snack packs are also available for purchase and they're great because they only have between 90-100 calories so an easy snack that is waistline friendly.

Vanilla Bean + Espresso
First I sampled the Vanilla Bean + Espresso.  There are whole chunks of espresso bean and vanilla bean in this butter.  The bitter of the espresso is balanced by the flavor of the vanilla.  It is interesting and I thought it tasted like a super rich almond butter.


Cocoa + Coconut
The Cocoa + Coconut is delicious.  It is like a better version of Nutella.  The consistency is very smooth.  The coconut flavor is very, very good and this one is my new favorite.  I could eat it by the spoonful.


Smooth Almond Butter
Finally I tried the regular Smooth Almond Butter.  I love almond butter and this just tastes better than most commercial varieties.  It isn't overly greasy like some butters with oil that is gross and sloshes in the jar.  It is very good with sliced bananas.  I'm a big fan.

To be entered in the giveaway, you must register to follow Effortless and Exquisite with your email address.  Enter your address on the top right side of the page under "Follow by Email."  It is easy and free!  The contest ends Monday, August 4th so hurry and enter.  Check out more about Barney Butter at their website here.  Visit the Barney Butter Facebook page here and follow Barney Butter on Twitter here.


Barney Butter  - Yum!

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